John Weekes is a former senior Canadian trade official and negotiator whose active involvement in trade matters spans more than 5 decades. He brings a strategic perspective to analysing the evolution of the trading system and its rules and how they interact with other policy spheres including changing concepts on the role of governments in modern societies and fundamental shifts in the international security situation.
He has an insider's perspective on how governments approach the negotiation, implementation and management of trade agreements and trade relations, and the settlement of trade disputes. With his considerable experience he has assisted businesses and governments in developing strategies to advance and protect their interests. He enjoys opportunities to think outside the box and elaborate innovative solutions to key challenges in the trading system.
He has represented Canada in trade negotiations and at various international trade meetings. He was Canada’s ambassador to the WTO (World Trade Organization) from 1995 to 1999. From 1991 to 1994 he served as Canada’s chief negotiator for NAFTA and its side agreements on cooperation in the areas of labour and environment. He was ambassador to GATT during the Uruguay Round of multilateral trade negotiations. In the 1970s, he participated in the Tokyo Round of GATT negotiations as well as in the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. He has chaired many international bodies including the General Council of the WTO and the GATT Council.
Most recently he served as a senior business adviser at Bennett Jones LLP from 2010 until his retirement from the firm in December 2021. In 1999 he left the Canadian government but remained in Geneva to join APCO Worldwide (a Washington-based international public affairs consultancy). In 2003 he joined the American law firm Sidley Austin. He returned from Geneva to Canada in 2009.
He continues to be an active participant in the work of the Friends of Multilateralism Group (FMG) based in Geneva, the North American Forum, the Management Board of the Advisory Centre on WTO Law in Geneva, the Canadian Global Affairs Institute (where he is a fellow), and the Trade Advisory Council to the Deputy Minister of International Trade. He is also a frequent contributor to The Brookings Institution USMCA Initiative. He is also a member of the Steering Committee of the Remaking the Global Trading System for a Sustainable Future Project lead by the Yale School of the Environment, the Yale Law School and the Yale School of Management; the Shridath Ramphal Centre for International Trade Law, Policy, and Services at the University of the West Indies Barbados; and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.