Understanding Trade with Joseph Schaefbauer, MPP 2019

Where did you intern?
I interned at the Office of the United States Trade Representative [in Washington, DC], and I received this internship through placement by the Harold W. Rosenthal Fellowship in International Relations.

Tell us about your internship.
Over the course of the summer, I worked in the USTR Congressional Affairs Office and the Trade Policy and Economics Office. The Congressional Affairs Office serves as USTR’s point of contact for Congressional and private industry stakeholders, and the Trade Policy and Economics Office operates as the internal trade policy “think-tank” for USTR and the Executive Office of the President.

The considerable difference between the two offices allowed me to develop a diverse skillset over the course of the summer. I prepared briefing materials and attended hearings on Capitol Hill, prepared slide decks, analyzed trade flow data and economic indicators, drafted policy memoranda and reports, and assisted with internal economic research on a variety of topics. Much of this work was related to US trade preference programs, including the African Growth and Opportunity Act and the Generalized System of Preferences.

What in particular made the internship rewarding?
I am interested in eventually working in Washington, so the network I was able to build through work at USTR, connecting with Humphrey alumni, and various Rosenthal Fellowship Program events, was definitely a positive outcome. It was also interesting to see the policy implementation process from the perspective of the Executive branch, and the everyday nitty-gritty of the federal bureaucracy.

How will this internship shape your completion of studies at the Humphrey School?
This internship generally enhanced my writing, analytical, research, and presentation skills, and the nature of my various work assignments provided new perspectives on a range of economic and policy issues. These new perspectives and analytical tools will likely shape how I approach my course selection at Humphrey, as I now have a more informed understanding of what makes an effective career civil servant.

How do you see this experience impacting your plan to advance the common good after graduation?
Working at USTR gave me a more nuanced understanding of the trade policy formulation and implementation process, and the interplay between government agencies, private industry stakeholders, Congress, and nongovernmental organizations in policy outcomes. While the federal government is definitely the agenda-setter for US trade policy, it is not the only actor in the process, and my summer experience helped to broaden the range of potential career opportunities I can pursue after Humphrey. These opportunities include civil service roles at State, Labor, Commerce, and USDA, analyst roles at several DC think tanks, advocacy roles at nongovernmental organizations, and strategic management roles in the private sector.

Given the sheer size of the US economy, the direction it takes on international trade policy inevitably influences the stability of the wider global economy, for better or worse. The perspectives, skills, and professional network I developed this summer in Washington will help me to hit the ground running after graduate school, and hopefully set me on course to be in a position to positively influence US economic and trade policy development in the near future.

Crossposted from Humphrey School News (August 30, 2017): https://www.hhh.umn.edu/news/understanding-trade
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