International trade specialists research and negotiate far-reaching economic
agreements between two or more countries -- the North American Free Trade
Agreement (NAFTA) is an obvious example. Trade specialists may work for the
state or federal government or for a private company.
Once a deal is signed on the dotted line, the work of trade specialists
doesn't end. Many specialists work to help individual companies get their
foot in the door and get deals approved. Others help keep international agreements
working by solving disputes over everything from softwood lumber to apple
Often, U.S. international trade is tied to politics. For example, American
companies cannot do business in countries like Iraq, Libya and Cuba, due to
sanctions. On the other hand, China, which once faced boycotts for human rights
violations, now has Most Favored Nation (MFN) trading status.
But trade specialists insist the number of disputes is really quite small.
"We trade more than $1 billion a day with the United States, and the number
of trade irritants are very few," says Sanjeev Chowdury, a trade specialist
However, conflicts in this area are not always between states. Trade is
becoming ever more international, a phenomenon called globalization. That
may be good news for international trade specialists, but there are also organizations
that oppose this trend.
Trade specialists work average office hours, but their routine may be interrupted
by special requests for data, letters, meetings or conferences that may demand
overtime. Regular travel may be necessary to collect data or attend conferences
"It's great international travel," says Chowdury. "I learn a lot about
the world and use my training." If you work for the foreign service, two-thirds
of your career might be spent living and working in another country.
Lisa Kjaers, of the American International Trade Administration, also says
international travel is an important part of the job -- you learn more about
a foreign market by being there than by reading about it in a textbook.
Being a trade specialist requires, above all, an analytical mind and good
communication skills. If you can communicate in a second or third language,
all the better. Frequent travel may inconvenience those with physical mobility