Kempton Jenkins has worked on both sides of trade regulation, as deputy assistant secretary of commerce in the 1970s and as an executive with Armco Inc. in the 1980s.
And on Wednesday, the 64-year-old Jenkins became senior vice president of a six-year-old government and business consulting firm, a job that will draw on his experience in both sectors.
"He's a career diplomat ... he's done business around the world," said Margery Kraus, president of APCO Associates. "For a young organization, his kind of maturity and experience are invaluable."
Jenkins joins APCO, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Arnold & Porter law firm with annual revenue of $4 million to $5 million, after 10 years as Armco's corporate vice president for international and government affairs and three decades in the State and Commerce departments.
In his new job, Jenkins said, he will lobby federal regulators on behalf of American companies who do business abroad and act as a consultant to firms entering foreign markets.
"I've never considered the corporate and government positions as adversarial in nature," Jenkins said. "But I think I'm in a unique position to bring together cooperation between the two."
A longtime advocate of increased trade with East Bloc countries, Jenkins coordinated U.S.-Soviet trade policy and helped produce the first U.S.-China trade agreement as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for East-West trade from 1978 to 1980. He also directed the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Trade and Economic Council, a group of major American companies doing business with the Soviet Union.
"The United States, uniquely among major industrialized powers, has not taken full advantage of economic possibilities in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China," he said.
Former Armco chairman C. William Verity wanted Jenkins as undersecretary for international trade when he was named commerce secretary in 1988, but dropped the idea because conservative Republicans opposed Jenkins's support for increasing trade with the Soviet Union.
Admitting that he still thinks about returning to government work some day, Jenkins said he turned to consulting because he was approaching Armco's mandatory retirement age.
"In practical terms, you can't start with a corporation at my age," he said. "But with consulting, there's no limit. It's a very flexible situation."
During his first day on the new job, Jenkins saw several familiar faces: Senior consultants Arthur Hartman, James Lowenstein and Don Bonker are all former government colleagues.
At George Washington University in 1949, Jenkins took a foreign service exam preparatory course with Lowenstein, who later became U.S. ambassador to France and Luxembourg. The two men still are friends and regular tennis partners.
Hartman, a former U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union, was assistant secretary of state under Henry Kissinger in the 1970s while Jenkins was deputy assistant secretary of state for congressional relations.
And Bonker, a House member from Washington state from the late 1970s to the mid-1980s, worked with Jenkins during his years at Armco and in the executive branch.
"It's going to be fun," said Jenkins. "We ought to be able to bring in some business ... and promote a more effective American participation in the global marketplace."