Baker & McKenzie offices in New York.
Baker & McKenzie offices in New York. (Rick Kopstein)

At a time of increasing trade friction between the United States and China, Baker McKenzie has hired a new partner in Hong Kong who specializes in international trade.

Jon Cowley joins the firm from Nike Inc., where he was assistant general counsel in charge of customs and international trade. At Nike, he worked on matters regarding trade sanctions, free trade agreements, export controls and anti-boycott, and oversaw the company’s customs-related audits, investigations and litigation globally. Although based in Nike’s headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon, Cowley worked extensively in the Asia-Pacific region.

Cowley started at Baker McKenzie’s San Francisco office on Monday and will relocate to Hong Kong in January. He previously worked at the firm’s Hong Kong office as an associate for two years before joining Nike in 2012. Earlier in his career, he worked on international trade matters at two of the Big Four auditors—KPMG and EY.

Since President Donald Trump took office, tension has been steadily mounting between the United States and countries in Asia that serve as manufacturing bases. Trump, whose 2016 campaign threatened a trade war with China, has taken a hard line so far on trading with China.

In August, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer formally started investigations against the Chinese government under Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974. Section 301 investigations, whose most recent success dates back to the administration of President Ronald Reagan, could potentially result in the United States resorting to unilateral trade sanctions against China.

According to The Washington Post, usage of Section 301 has been sparingly since 1995, when the intergovernmental World Trade Organization was formed.