Gayblack Canadian Man

Foreign Policy Analysis

Economists in DFAT


I think the Department of Foreign Affairs
and Trade is a wonderful destination for economics graduates. It’s the chance to work on very
real and very current issues. I think if you’re coming into the department
with an economics degree you should be expecting to take the way of thinking like an economist
and thinking about the world and using that on a variety of issues, complex demanding
issues, where you really feel like you’re making a difference. DFAT’s mission within government is to promote
Australia’s foreign interests and they include economic and trade interests. Australia is
an open economy and so understanding the global economy and the opportunities for Australia’s
exporters and investors abroad is key to promoting our national interests. One of the real drawcards of DFAT is the work
that you do at the department is almost always high profile. A lot of issues that Australia
deals with like energy security have a very important economic aspect to them so to understand
the new world order you really have to understand international economics. DFAT’s a good destination for economics graduates
who would like to work on Australia’s trade agenda both in terms of the multilateral trade
arrangements in the WTO, there’s a chance to work on some very interesting issues that
confront the multilateral trading regime. DFAT takes the lead on free trade negotiations
and DFAT does a lot of work with Australian businesses to try and help them to sell their
products and services to overseas markets. As I’ve progressed I’ve been able to do different
things. You’re never in the one job for more than 2 or 3 years. The work is so diverse
across the department, you never get stale. I’ve worked in trade and economic areas as
a specialist and as a generalist for 10 years including at our delegation to the OECD in
Paris where I helped shape Australia’s views on key matters of international policy setting,
and more recently in APEC where Australia focuses on getting the most out of our region
through trade and investment links. I currently work in the Free Trade agreement
Division and am working on the free trade agreement negotiations with China, Japan and
South Korea. We’re currently undertaking those three as well as some others I only work on
those three. Each free trade agreement is different, each has its own issues and that
makes each particular negotiation very interesting. I did a six month rotation on the China Economic
and Trade Desk in the North Asia Division and what we were doing was looking at the
Chinese economy and developments in Australia’s bilateral trade with China, looking at the
direction of those things and seeing how they would influence our foreign and trade policy
objectives. I’m the Congressional Liaison Officer in Washington
DC so what that means is I run the Congressional Liaison Office in the Embassy. It just so
happens that I’m here at a time or in the wake of the global financial crisis. The US
Congress is considering a whole range of measures to try to stimulate the economy and create
jobs so it’s very valuable for me in analysing these proposals, having that base economics
background. Economics Graduates will play a key role at
Australia’s posts. Australia’s engagement with the world is increasingly through trade
and investment and it’s important that Australia and the Government understands the economic
conditions within a particular economy, how those conditions impact on traders and investors,
but also more broadly how Australia can work more co-operatively with that country in promoting
our economic interests internationally. I was our Second Secretary, Economic, in Malaysia
and I was there just before and during the Asian economic crisis back in 1997, 98 and
that had a huge impact on the Malaysian economy and then in turn obviously on Australia. Malaysia
was one of our top ten trading partners at the time and there was a need to provide real
time and very quick analysis back to Australia that could inform our Ministers and the Government
on the implications for us of what was happening in Asia. As economic issues become more and more intertwined
with national security and foreign policy issues, I’ve felt there has been a real demand
in the department for somebody with economic acumen and a financial understanding.

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