The United States has named its assistant U.S. Trade Representative for the Western Hemisphere John Melle as the country’s chief negotiator during the NAFTA talks.

Melle was appointed to his current position in March 2011 and is responsible for developing and implementing trade policy for the western hemisphere, including negotiations with Canada and Mexico.

He also oversees trade agreements with countries in South America and the Caribbean.

Melle spent his first years in government working for the U.S. Department of Energy in the policy, planning and analysis office. He joined the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) in 1988, and has covered a number of regions in various positions, including the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program, which is an American trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world.

Melle has a history degree from Haverford College and a Master’s degree in public policy from the University of Michigan.

NAFTA talks will begin on August 16 in Washington D.C., with seven rounds of talks over three-week intervals expected between Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, according to a report by Thomson