Archive for the ‘Pride Month’ Category

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Spotlight on Pride Month: Jeff Dutton, Commercial Service Officer

June 17, 2021

Jeff Dutton is a Commercial Officer based in Shanghai, China

This post coincides with the Department of Commerce’s spotlight on LGBT Pride Month.

This post contains external links. Please review our external linking policy. 

ITA Commercial Service Officer Jeff Dutton speaks to industry leaders at the Carrier Air Conditioning Museum in China.

I work at ITA’s U.S. Commercial Service office in Shanghai, China, supervising a team of 7 local staff and 2 fellow commercial officers. We offer a variety of export promotion services to small and medium-sized U.S. companies. Whether it’s a consumer product such as air fresheners or nutritional supplements, or a service provider helping industrial parks in China use less energy and lower carbon emissions, my colleagues and I help connect U.S. companies with potential agents, distributors, and customers in China.

As a college student in my home state of Arkansas, I studied abroad in Spain, Mexico, and Japan. I decided to pursue my interest in international trade and economics with a Master’s degree in International Relations at the Maxwell School of Public Affairs at Syracuse University in New York. A Maxwell School alumna who had landed at ITA recommended that I apply for several ITA jobs. I didn’t get the first job that I interviewed for, but I kept trying and in 1998 was offered an International Trade Specialist position. What excites me about export promotion and commercial diplomacy is that it brings people together for mutually beneficial economic exchange while at the same time helping communities across America by creating good-paying jobs. I also enjoy meeting business owners who succeeded in expanding their operations and hiring more American workers as a result of trade agreements ITA helped negotiate or a contract signed with a foreign distributor that my teammates introduced them to.

International trade is inherently cross-cultural and being a successful practitioner of it requires sensitivity to other cultures, flexibility in the way you communicate, and a readiness to expect the unexpected. I think that many members of the LGBTQ+ community have honed these skills for a variety of reasons, but partially because many of us felt not quite at home in the communities where we grew up, even if we did have supportive and loving families (as I had, even in rural Arkansas). So there may be a disproportionately higher number of LGBTQ+ people in organizations like the State Department, ITA, and the Foreign Agricultural Service. On the customer side, there are many LGBTQ+ owned and -led businesses in the United States who are our clients, particularly in the travel and leisure, design, and other creative industries. As U.S. exports become more service-oriented, knowledge-based and creative, it will be important to engage this dynamic segment of the American economy.

For those in the LGBTQ+ community interested in expanding your business through international sales, please take advantage of ITA’s many low-cost services for U.S. small- and medium-size exporters. Go to Trade.gov and check out the growing number of free market intelligence reports from virtually every major market worldwide where the Commercial Service has offices. Also on trade.gov, find your local U.S. office of the Commercial Service and give our expert colleagues near you a call to explore your options and brainstorm about best prospects.