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Christopher H. Phillips

Christopher Hallowell Phillips, who served as the United States Ambassador to Brunei from 1989 to 1991 and was the founding President of the National Council for United States-China Trade, passed away peacefully Thursday, January 10, 2008 at the Addison Gilbert Hospital in Gloucester, MA.  Mr. Phillips had been hospitalized for a month, surrounded by friends and family.  He was 87 years old and lived with his wife Sydney Osborne Phillips in Ipswich, MA.

A member of a family that helped to establish the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he was born in the Hague, Netherlands on December 6th, 1920, the son of William and Caroline Drayton Phillips.  His ancestors include the first Mayor of Boston and an abolitionist orator as well as the founders of Phillips Academy Andover and Exeter.  His father was the United States Ambassador to Italy at the outbreak of World War II and served as Under Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt.

Mr. Phillips had a long career in public service, which began at the end of World War II when he served on General Douglas MacArthur’s staff in Tokyo during the first year of reconstruction.  Upon returning to Massachusetts, he completed his degree at Harvard University and, after a brief stint working for the Beverly Evening Times, successfully ran for the State Senate in 1948, becoming the youngest Massachusetts State Senator elected up to that time.  Mr. Phillips was re-elected twice and as Chairman of the Public Commission on Educational Television he led the effort to create the first Educational Television station in the nation, WGBH, Channel 2, in Boston.

After becoming involved in the Eisenhower presidential campaign in 1952, Mr. Phillips moved his young family to Washington DC where he spent four years as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Affairs, focusing on economic and social programs of the United Nations.  After a brief assignment as Vice Chairman of the US Civil Service Commission in 1957, Mr. Phillips accepted an appointment as United States Representative on the United Nations Economic and Social Council in New York City.

When Eisenhower left office, Mr. Phillips began an 8 year period in the private sector gaining increasing appreciation of the impact of international trade and finance on relations between nations.  He accepted a position working for David Rockefeller at Chase Manhattan Bank as the bank’s representative for UN affairs and Manager of the bank’s Canadian division from 1961-1965 and was President of the US Council of the International Chamber of Commerce from 1965-1969.

In 1969, Mr. Phillips returned to the United Nations where he served until 1973, first as Deputy Representative on the Security Council then Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with the rank of Ambassador.  As Chairman of the US delegation to the United Nations Seabeds committee, he was instrumental in establishing the 1973 “Law of the Sea” which established an International Seabed area, beginning at 600 feet in depth, which is the common heritage of all nations.  He also served during the period in which the People’s Republic of China was admitted to the United Nations.  This combined with his experience in the private sector led to his next and longest service.

In 1973, Mr. Phillips was elected by the founding board as the first President of the National Council for US-China trade (since renamed the US-China Business Council), a joint undertaking between the US government and the private sector to develop our trade and economic relations with the People’s Republic of China.  This non-governmental organization was created before official relations existed between the US and the People’s Republic China and served as a liaison between the two countries.  He led the first American business delegation to visit the People’s Republic of China.  The basic objective of the Council was to educate American business about contemporary China and the opportunities and pitfalls of the Chinese market.  The Council also played a significant role in helping to establish formal diplomatic relations between the US and China.

After his retirement from the Council in 1986, President Bush asked him to serve as the US Ambassador to Brunei, a wealthy oil-producing nation in Southern Asia, a post he held from 1989-1991.

His avid interest in outdoor activities included hiking, horseback riding, and fishing and he was a supporter of many environmental causes and organizations, including the Trustees of Reservations in Massachusetts whose Appleton Farms property was a favorite destination in his later years.

Mr. Phillips is survived by his second wife, Sydney Osborne Phillips and his children by his first wife Mabel Olsen Phillips, who died in 1995, including Victoria P. Boyd of New York; Miriam O. Phillips of San Francisco; and David W. Phillips of Mountain View, California; 2 stepchildren, 5 grandchildren, and one great-granddaughter.

A funeral service will be held Wednesday at 11:00am in Ascension Memorial Church, 31 County Street, Ipswich, MA.  Arrangements by the Whittier-Porter Funeral Home of Ipswich. In lieu of flowers, contributions to the Trustees of Reservations, 572 Essex Street, Beverly, MA 01915-1530, or the Essex County Greenbelt, 82 Eastern Avenue, Essex, MA 01929 are encouraged to honor the memory of Christopher Phillips.



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