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Along the Silk Road

Menachem Treiber

With his proficiency in Chinese, international attorney Moyshe Silk is the first chassidic Jew in a US Administration senior slot — and a linchpin in current China-US trade negotiations

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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Silk says the move away from his New York haven and the law firm he’s partnered in for two decades, to what he calls “the self-imposed exile in Washington from Monday to Thursday,” is all in the name of public service. He sees it as hashgachah (Photos: Eli Greengart)

L ast October, when Reb Moyshe (Mitchell) Silk left his influential position as a senior partner in the global law firm Allen & Overy to become Deputy Assistant Secretary of the US Department of the Treasury, he arrived for his swearing-in ceremony holding an ancient tome. Instead of the Bible typically used for such ceremonies, Silk — bearded, black-hatted, and ever-connected to his chassidic roots — brought along his treasured ancient Tikkun Korim that had belonged to Rebbe Mordechai of Nadvorna, a tzaddik and miracle worker who passed away in 1894, and was from Silk’s grandfather’s ancestral town.

Using the precious sefer for the ceremony indeed captured what Moyshe Silk — the first chassidic Jew in a US Administration senior slot — is all about: a brilliant attorney and international negotiator equally comfortable as a chavrusa with his rebbe (Rav Shlomo Leifer, the Nadvorna Rebbe of Boro Park) as he is walking the halls of the White House or advising Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin or Undersecretary David Malpass.

These days have found Silk — an expert in Chinese law and finance who spent over a decade as a partner in his former law firm’s Hong Kong office — heavily involved in the negotiations with China that have dominated the press over the past few months. Silk heads the Treasury’s Office of Investment, Energy, and Infrastructure, where he formulates and implements American policy relating to international investment and designs international programs for US exports of energy and infrastructure — and China features heavily in his investment portfolio.

Today, the US is at a critical juncture in its trade and investment relations with China, which not only impact US-China relations, but also global economic stability.  

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Swearing in on his treasured Tikkun Korim captured what Moyshe Silk is all about: a brilliant attorney and international negotiator equally comfortable learning Torah with his rebbe as he is walking the power halls of Washington

The US is pressing China to address numerous long-standing issues, including reducing the enormous US trade deficit with China, measuring over $375 billion; granting greater market access to US firms in China; and effective and enhanced protection of US intellectual property in China and China’s predatory practices regarding sensitive US technology.

“Addressing these issues will ensure a fair and reciprocal trade relationship, benefit the global economy, create more jobs for US workers, provide greater access to US investors to capitalize on opportunities in the China market, and protect US innovation and creativity,” Silk, the Treasury’s lead negotiator in energy trade matters, tells Mishpacha.

President Trump’s decision last week to impose tariffs on $50 billion of Chinese goods, and China’s immediate retaliation, bring an additional level of challenge to the task at hand.

As a senior negotiator, Silk was part of the delegation that traveled to China last month with Secretary Mnuchin, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, US Trade Representative Ambassador Robert Lighthizer, National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, and White House Director of Trade and Industrial Policy Peter Navarro, as well as the same US team that met with Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington mid-May and again in Beijing two weeks later. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 715)

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