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Jim Kolbe

Jim Kolbe currently serves as a senior transatlantic fellow for GMF. He advises on trade matters as well as issues of effectiveness of U.S. assistance to foreign countries, on U.S.-EU relationships, and on migration and its relationship to development. From 2008-10, he co-chaired the Transatlantic Taskforce on Development with Gunilla Carlsson, the Swedish minister for international development cooperation. The Taskforce consisted of experts from both sides of the Atlantic from governments, NGOs, foundations and corporations and made strategic recommendations on development for the U.S. administration as well as to European audiences. In 2011-12, he co-chaired another task force with the Swedish minister for trade. This task force developed a strategic plan for the launching of U.S.-EU trade negotiations, now known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership talks. He currently chairs a third task force funded by the Finnish Foreign Ministry looking at private sector investment to assure food sustainability in sub-Saharan Africa.

In addition to his work with GMF, Kolbe serves as a senior advisor and strategic consultant to McLarty Associates and is president of JTKConsulting, which represents the interests of Arizona clients to the United States Congress. 

Kolbe serves as vice chairman of the Board of Directors of the International Republican Institute, and is a member of the boards of directors for Freedom House, the Institute for Science and Global Policy, the Project on Middle East Democracy. In Arizona, he serves on the boards of directors for the Community Food Bank and Critical Path Institute. He is also co-chair of the Governor’s Transportation and Trade Task Force, and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

For 22 years, Kolbe served in the U.S. House of Representatives, elected for 11 consecutive terms, from 1985 to 2007. He represented the Eighth (previously designated the Fifth) congressional district, comprising the southeastern part of Arizona with Tucson as the main center of population. Prior to coming to Congress, he served for six years in the Arizona State Senate. 

While in Congress, Kolbe served for six years on the House Budget Committee and for 20 years on the Appropriations Committee. In that capacity he was responsible for deciding the allocation of the budget and the terms for spending appropriated funds. He was chairman of the Treasury, Post Office, and Related Agencies subcommittee for four years, and for his last six years in Congress, he chaired the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Agencies subcommittee.

Kolbe graduated from Northwestern University with a bachelor’s degree in political science, and from Stanford University with an MBA and a concentration in economics.

Kolbe was commissioned in the United States Naval Reserves in 1965 and served for more than ten years before retiring as a Lieutenant Commander, USNR. His active duty included a year of service in the Republic of Vietnam with Coastal forces (Swift boats).

He has received numerous awards and tributes, but notable among them is the George Marshall Award for Distinguished Service from the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Order of the Aztec from the President of Mexico, and the lifetime achievement in trade award from the Washington International Trade Association.

News Articles

Letter to the president on his executive actionNovember 25, 2014Immigration reform is always difficult and unavoidably controversial. There are so many variables. Crafting legislation that is fair to all, while also being economically sensible, is fraught with peril. It requires a balancing act – not a one-sided presidential dictate.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation is moving forwardAugust 06, 2014This week, leaders from almost 50 countries across Africa are in Washington, D.C., for a summit that seeks to strengthen ties between their countries and the United States.
Congress Should Not Weaken US Law on Military CoupsDecember 09, 2013A recently introduced amendment to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act would fundamentally alter the law requiring the suspension of U.S. aid in the event of a coup d’état against a democratically elected government.
A New Era for Transatlantic Trade LeadershipFebruary 13, 2013President Obama announced plans for a free trade agreement between the US and Europe during his annual State of the Union address. GMF publication, A New Era for Transatlantic Trade Leadership, calls for the creation of a barrier-free transatlantic market as part of ambitious recommendations for a new U.S.-EU trade agenda.
The Sunshine State’s Rotten Tomato Fight With MexicoAugust 24, 2012Florida growers are demanding protection that would cost thousands of U.S. jobs and risk a trade war with America's second-largest export market.
Can the U.S. Afford Foreign Assistance in an Age of Austerity?October 19, 2011

The United States' ability to influence global events depends as much on how we leverage the civilian tools of foreign policy as how we flex our military muscle.

Jim Kolbe discusses the future of American foreign aid on WAMUSeptember 20, 2011

One year ago this week, President Obama elevated global development as a "core pillar" of U.S. foreign policy, alongside diplomacy and defense. But as Congress and the White House struggle to find billions to cut from the federal budget, some advocates worry Washington's commitment to reducing global poverty is wavering.

African development: The role of traditional and emerging players reconsideredMay 16, 2011The growing engagement of emerging economies, notably China, India and Brazil, in Africa is changing the landscape for development bringing significant new opportunities (and challenges) for Africa.
Why Congress shouldn’t slash foreign aidApril 08, 2011Jim Kolbe and Connie Morella explain why Congress shouldn't slash foreign aid in an op-ed for The Daily Caller.
Jim Kolbe moderates discussion with heads of the World Bank and WTO on Aid for Trade AgendaMarch 15, 2011On March 14, GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow Jim Kolbe moderated a discussion between the President of the World Bank Group, Robert Zoellick, and the WTO's Director-General, Pascal Lamy
Essay: From earthquake to sauvignon blanc in New ZealandFebruary 25, 2011As I write this, I am sipping an iced tea and overlooking a beautiful river valley, writing with a borrowed laptop. Just a few days ago, this bliss seemed very far away. I was in Christchurch for the fourth meeting of the U.S.-New Zealand Partnership, a group that looks at different aspects of the bilateral relationship.
Embrace minority population as the valuable asset it isFebruary 22, 2011Sometime in the next decade or so, Arizona will join California and a growing number of other states as a "majority/minority" state -- that is, a state where the majority of the population is composed of minority groups. For Arizona, that means primarily Hispanics and Native Americans, with smaller minority populations of African-Americans, Asians, and Pacific Islanders.
The facts on foreign aidFebruary 09, 2011With Egypt leading the news and congressional budget discussions coming to a head, there is an energetic debate now about U.S. foreign assistance.
More effective foreign assistance can pay real dividendsJanuary 28, 2011As a new Congress gets into gear, both Republicans and Democrats have a solemn duty to do the people?s work and to make sure their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. U.S. foreign assistance is already under the microscope, as it should be, but we believe policymakers should focus on making it better instead of slashing budgets.
The Arizona FactorOctober 07, 2010"Good fences make good neighbors", says the narrator's neighbor in Robert Frost's poem "The Mending Wall" of nearly a century ago. What is usually forgotten about the poem is that the narrator, presumably Frost himself, questions why fences between neighbors are necessary at all.
U.S. leadership key to MDG progressSeptember 22, 2010With the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDG) Summit in New York this week — and the MDG deadline only five years away — the world is watching to see if Washington seizes this opportunity to show leadership in the fight against global hunger and disease.
Obama names Jim Kolbe to Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and NegotiationsSeptember 16, 2010U.S. President Barack Obama has announced that GMF Senior Transatlantic Fellow Jim Kolbe will be appointed to the president's Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations, which is tasked with providing policy advice on trade matters.
Jim Kolbe testifies before the House Committee on Foreign AffairsApril 23, 2008Senior Transatlantic Fellow Jim Kolbe, a former Member of the U.S. House of Representatives, testified April 23 before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs about foreign assistance reform in the next administration.
Is our aid making us safer?January 02, 2008It is increasingly apparent that our aid - and trade - policies are not really supporting economic growth in impoverished countries. Nor are they enhancing our own security.


Alice in Trade-Land: The Politics of TTIPFebruary 13, 2014

This policy brief argues that the TTIP trade agreement negotiations are less about economics and more about politics.

Transformational Partnerships: Innovative Approaches To Addressing Food Security In AfricaApril 18, 2012

This report's main focus is on understanding the unique characteristics of transformational partnerships in food security in Africa so that they can be scaled up across the continent.

Making the Most of 1 Percent: Investing in America’s Global Role through the U.S. International Affairs BudgetDecember 12, 2011

This policy brief argues that even in times of budget austerity, international development spending should still be a priority....

Toward a Brighter Future: A Transatlantic Call for Renewed Leadership and Partnerships in Global DevelopmentFebruary 10, 2009

The Transatlantic Taskforce on Development, a group comprising 24 North American and European leaders in development, released a report urging renewed leadership and partnerships in global development to political leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.