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Baroness Catherine Ashton has been appointed as High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. She has been European Commissioner for Trade since October 2008.

During her time as Trade Commissioner she has initialled an ambitious and far-reaching free trade agreement with South Korea, and solved a number of high-profile trade disputes with major trading partners.  She has also championed trade as a means of promoting development around the world, putting the EU's economic relationship with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries on a firmer footing.

Catherine Ashton has represented the European Union in the Doha Round of world trade talks, and built on already strong bilateral trade and investment relationships.  As Trade Commissioner she co-chaired the EU-China High Level Economic and Trade Dialogue with Chinese Vice-Premier Wang Qishan.

Further life and career

Catherine Ashton was born in Upholland in Lancashire, from where she takes her title, Baroness Ashton of Upholland.

She worked in the public, private and voluntary sector and from 1983-89 she was Director of Business in the Community, and established the Employers' Forum on Disability, Opportunity Now, and the Windsor Fellowship.

She chaired the Health Authority in Hertfordshire from 1998 to 2001, and became a Vice President of the National Council for One Parent Families.

In 1999 Catherine Ashton became a life peer. She then took on a ministerial position (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State) in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001, and subsequently in the Department for Constitutional Affairs and Ministry of Justice. She became a Privy Councillor in May 2006.

Catherine Ashton was appointed Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Queen's Privy Council in Gordon Brown’s first Cabinet in June 2007. As well as Leader of the Lords, she took responsibility in the House of Lords for equalities issues.  She took the Lisbon Treaty through the UK's upper chamber.

In 2005 Catherine Ashton was voted House Magazine Minister of the Year and Channel 4 Peer of the Year. In 2006, she was voted Stonewall Politician of the Year.   

She is married to former journalist and pollster Peter Kellner, and has two children and three stepchildren.