Careers in International Trade

A day in the life of an international trade officer

A Day at the Consulate General in New York, United States

I started my day at 8:30 a.m. with a meeting with the editors of Bloomberg Businessweek to review plans for an article on Canada as a premier business destination in the next edition. With over 75,000 subscribers, this magazine is an ideal vehicle for promoting Canada's investment climate and innovative spirit.

Upon returning to my office at the Consulate General of Canada in New York, I reviewed the agenda for tomorrow's seminar and reception for local corporate lawyers. We are co-sponsoring this event with a Canadian law firm which has an office in New York.

Overnight several emails came in from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency in Moncton concerning plans of the Premier of New Brunswick to participate in a trade mission that is coming to New York next month. We need to finalize the programs for five separate activities during which the premiers and senior executives of 22 companies will meet with prospective corporate partners and investors.

Mid-afternoon I met with my boss to review our response to a new marketing campaign from the Investment Unit at Headquarters. The document gives recommendations on how we should be promoting Canada's new tax advantages to Fortune 500 firms, investment banks, Wall Street analysts and venture capitalists.

In the evening I attended a reception at Tiffany's & Co. The company’s chairman has accepted our invitation to travel to Ottawa and Toronto at the end of the month. This event is an opportunity to discuss informally their program and objectives, and to review their interest in the Canadian market.

A Day at the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I am the Senior Trade Commissioner working at the Canadian Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City, where I am one of seven Canada-based officers on staff. As this is a small mission, we are all expected to pitch in and assist in all areas of the mission's day-to-day operations.

My day starts at 8:00 a.m. The first item on my agenda this morning is to discuss upcoming events and assign relevant tasks to my trade team during our weekly staff meeting. This is where I get updates on incoming visits, preparations on trade fairs, and outcalls to local companies.

Mid-morning I meet with a Canadian who is having difficulty renewing his company's Vietnamese business license. Then I sit down with one of my locally-engaged colleagues to discuss his trip to Canada as the lead of a delegation of Vietnamese buyers.

At noon I stop for lunch. Today I am having a working lunch with my counterparts from a few of the other consulates in the city to discuss trade issues as well as new opportunities being pursued by foreign companies.

After lunch I return to the office and follow up on preparations for an outreach visit to the city of Can Tho with the Consul General. As we will be participating in a contract signing ceremony between a Canadian company and the local authorities, we go over the speech and press release I drafted the day before.

Later in the day I check the day’s emails and respond to trade enquiries from companies in Canada seeking contacts and intelligence on business opportunities in the Vietnamese market. In addition, I prepare a draft program for a potential visit to Vietnam by a Canadian minister wishing to lead a trade mission to the region.

It's now 5:30 p.m. and I'm the last person in the office. My last task of the day is to tour the office and lock up. I should be home by 6:10 p.m., just enough time to freshen up and head off to a networking event organized by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

A Day at the Regional Office in Toronto

As the Trade Commissioner responsible for the aerospace and defence sectors in Ontario, I work with a diverse group of professionals and network with people from around the world. I love that my work is full of challenge and autonomy and that I am able to help contribute to Canada’s economic development.

My day started with a call from an Ontario defence client who needed help applying for a Canadian export permit for a shipment bound for China.

Afterwards, I met with colleagues from the provincial government, the London Ontario Economic Development Corporation and my counterpart from the Canadian Embassy in Washington to organize a seminar for Ontario aerospace and defence companies explaining recent amendments to the US export controls program.

Before lunch I squeezed in a visit to a Toronto-based aerospace company who is a new client of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service and is seeking to obtain information on export opportunities in the Brazilian aerospace market and advice on developing their market entry strategy.

My afternoon was spent in the office participating in a conference call with colleagues from other federal and provincial government departments, Canadian Embassies and Consulates abroad, the Ontario Aerospace Council and the Department’s Sector Practice team in HQ to discuss Canada’s participation at the Paris Air Show, which a large contingent of Ontario aerospace and defence companies plan to attend.

The latter part of the afternoon was spent on follow up with clients and recording developments and outcomes in TRIO, the Department’s client management system.

A Day in the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service Post Support Unit, Headquarters, Ottawa

The Post Support Unit (PSU) is an often fast-paced central advice unit in headquarters providing guidance to the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service's 150+ trade offices abroad. The main ways by which we provide advice include responding to questions from Canadian trade offices around the world about how to handle requests from companies, and providing information to help Trade Commissioners abroad to do their jobs.

I started my morning by handling some of the requests that had come in overnight from various posts abroad, which were divvied up between me and my PSU colleagues. Requests for guidance from posts are dealt with on a priority basis so they in turn can respond to and assist Canadian companies in a timely fashion.

Later that morning I dealt with the matter of a Canadian company who sent a similar request for assistance to fourteen our of trade offices abroad by asking one of our regional offices in Canada, located in the same city as the firm's headquarters, to meet with a company official and help her identify a smaller number of priority markets where the company has the best prospects.

In the afternoon I consulted with other units in the Department to address an issue increasingly confronting trade offices abroad which was detected because requests were made from various posts to the PSU about how to handle the issue. Developing a best practice for handling such situations helps all trade officers abroad ensure consistency of service.

I consider myself lucky to have an assignment in the PSU because it offers exposure to the ins and outs of how a Trade Commissioner abroad can help companies succeed in the global marketplace, by providing a broad window on challenges arising in posts across the globe. The experience gained in the PSU is viewed as excellent preparation for serving abroad.

A Day in the Trade Policy Branch, Headquarters, Ottawa

As a Trade Policy Officer, my work involves supporting Canada’s lead negotiator for a key World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement. I am part of the department’s negotiating team, and we will be leaving tomorrow to spend the week in Geneva attending the next round of negotiations.

I start the day by checking my email and responding to questions and comments from other Canadian federal government departments. The input from other government departments is follow-up from an inter-departmental meeting regarding the upcoming round of negotiations. Other departments occasionally send representatives to the negotiations, but when they are unable to do so, they share their input and feedback with our division, and we ensure that this is taken into account when drafting meeting instructions and other documents outlining Canada’s position in the negotiations.

Following this, I spend the morning drafting instructions which will be used by the lead negotiator as a guide during bilateral meetings to be held with each member country and for the plurilateral session which involves all Parties to the Agreement. Before beginning work on the instructions, consultations were held with a number of divisions within the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and also with other Canadian federal government departments.

After lunch, the lead negotiator and I, along with the rest of our team, meet with representatives from our legal division to discuss Canada’s input regarding some of the outstanding issues with the new text to the Agreement. The feedback we receive during this meeting will be incorporated into the instructions for the upcoming meetings. We need to get the text right – this agreement will be a legal document, and Canada will need to live up to our obligations, so we can’t make any mistakes.

After the meeting, I make a phone call to our Embassy in Beijing, China to discuss the instructions for our bilateral meeting with China. Our Trade Commissioners and Trade Policy Officers posted abroad are an excellent source of input and feedback regarding Canada’s negotiating position.

Finally, I end the day by discussing travel arrangements with our Administrative Assistant and head home to pack my bags for my trip.

A Day in the Investor Services Division, Invest in Canada Bureau, Headquarters, Ottawa

As an Account Executive responsible for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), it is my role to help departmental officers to attract, expand and retain foreign direct investment projects for this rapidly expanding industry.

I start my day by facilitating a conference call with a US-based potential investor who is interested in establishing an office in the Maritimes. I connect our Regional Office and their Provincial investment counterpart. This lead was passed directly to me from the business development agency in Ottawa.

Later that morning, I assist our German investment officer with disseminating investment leads acquired from a recent international digital media conference. One potential investor has expressed an interest in setting up an R&D centre in Vancouver. I email the contact information of this company to the post in Los Angeles, where the company is headquartered, and to the ICT sector officer at our Regional Office in Vancouver, while ensuring that our Trade Commissioner in Germany is kept in the loop. I repeat this several times for the different leads that have been acquired at the digital media conference.

At lunch, I meet with an official from a national industry association to discuss the landscape of digital media and upcoming regulatory challenges. He informs me of their upcoming conference and we discuss potential areas of collaboration at future events.

After lunch, I attend to a request from our ICT sector officer in Delhi. There is an Indian company in the advanced stages of making a decision with respect to the location in which to establish its mobility innovation centre. I prepare a benchmark study comparing six different cities in Canada and the US, with respect to labour availability and costs, operating costs, and quality of business infrastructure.

Later that afternoon, the ICT officers in the Investor Services Division and the Sectors Practice meet with company X. This company has been rapidly expanding globally and within Canada. We discuss their investment strategy, possible trade and investment challenges and connect the company with other relevant government departments, such as Industry Canada.

That evening I host a regular conference call with our Asian investment officers to prepare for the Invest in Canada Week. Our Embassy provides an update on the foreign companies we will be meeting with and I provide an update on the telematics presentations that two Canadian university professors will be presenting at the event.