Leaders of Global Trade: Andrew Schroth

Leaders of Global Trade: Andrew Schroth 1

“Trade is the single most significant driver of economic, political and social change.”

For Andrew Schroth, an accomplished international trade lawyer, involvement in trade has allowed him to help smaller economies gain access to larger markets, negotiate trade deals and promote sustainable trade worldwide.

“Global Trade is an enormous agent of change – use it in any pursuit to make the world better, safer, cleaner, more humane.”

Andrew manages the Hong Kong office of Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP (GDLSK), one of America’s largest law firms with attorneys working in the US and Asia, devoted exclusively to international trade and customs matters. His practice is focused on anti-dumping and countervailing duty actions and other federal trade actions before the US Department of Commerce, the US International Trade Commission and US Trade Representative – including facilitating the movement of goods across borders, representing industry views to governments, trade finance and logistics or arguing before trade courts in the US.

Agent of change

“I realized quite early on that my work in the trade remedy area had an impact on individual companies, as well as certain industries.

“The work I do for specific companies or sectors in maintaining their access to the US market has had a big impact on individuals, entire workforces and also helped stimulate local and regional development of industries. I realize that my firm is pivotal in keeping free and fair trade alive in developing parts of Asia and also educating companies and their managers on how to become better global trade citizens.”

Andrew grew up in an international family, moving to different countries as his father ran the regional and global human relations departments for a multinational corporation. His many travels through Asia, Africa and Europe, and exposure to various cultures, inspired him very early on to look at careers that would give him the same international exposure.

His education was split between the US and the UK. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from Tulane University, a master’s degree in International Relations from the University of Sussex in England, a juris doctorate (law degree) from Vanderbilt University in the US and a master’s degree in International law from the London School of Economics.

“I took immediately to international living and began early to seek ways to have an international career with postings overseas. I was enamored with expat life and the opportunities and doors it opened for me … I learned a lot about the global interconnectivity between people and cultures and saw how global trade was the backbone of this connectivity.”

Beginnings in trade

Andrew started his trade career “by chance” when he took his first attorney position with a large US law firm and handled two cases involved in countertrade. He was fascinated with the many facets of the trade cases – legal, political, economic, accounting, logistics. He decided from then on to pursue a trade-related track as a lawyer. Andrew has been managing the GDSLK office in Hong Kong since 2006.

“Every project was unique and interesting. The results of these cases had a profound impact on entire industries, communities and individuals,” he said. “I became a specialist in trade remedy cases and worked mostly in Europe, spending many months each year in the UK, Italy, Germany and France.”

During the early part of his career, Andrew said the US trade remedy cases, mostly anti-dumping, were targeted back then against highly competitive European products – steel and ball bearings, agricultural goods, and automotive and machinery components. In the 1990s, the trade work shifted dramatically towards Asia, with Japan, Taiwan and China becoming the main focus countries, and later, Vietnam.

Now his trade remedy work involves all aspects of representing US and foreign interests before US government agencies and courts in trade disputes involving unfair trade practices, “less than fair value” pricing investigations, unlawful subsidization and other trade remedies administered under the World Trade Organization. Andrew counsels on US Customs, product and food safety, and related regulatory issues. He also counsels government agencies in China on issues related to US trade and customs laws.

Andrew sits on several boards, one of which is the Global Apparel and Footwear Textile Initiative (GAFTI), an initiative that is bringing large and small companies together with governments in an attempt to streamline and standardize regulation and compliance in many areas with emphasis on sustainability, environmental, social and human rights.

A rewarding career

“International trade remedy work is rewarding. There is great intrigue in bridging business cultures and building relationships with clients and their management teams.”

To succeed in international trade, he noted that a lawyer needs to be very culture-conscious, has to meld easily into new business cultures and traditions, and has to understand what the priorities are for the business versus the level of compliance required.

“Trade law presents great travel and work opportunities all over the world, it is enormously fulfilling and rewarding. It is tied in to so many other areas of business and politics which makes it really interesting.”

Aside from his field, he noted that there are vast opportunities for the younger generation to make it in the trade industry in general.

“Global trade in goods and services presents hundreds of thousands of opportunities for young people and influences them in very profound ways. We live in a completely interdependent world economically. Every country and industry is affected by global trade patterns and politics and issues, and there are opportunities all the way upstream and downstream in the world of global trade. From import-export, logistics, regulatory and compliance (customs and trade), to trade finance, political lobbying and industry-support associations, government positions in trade agencies and private businesses. The list is endless.”

For soft consumer goods, there are opportunities in apparel and footwear, along with global sourcing and logistics, compliance, factory management, customer relations, sales and marketing. He noted that technology is also the most exciting area in global trade with the recent boom of online shopping and borderless trade.

Opportunities for the younger generation

Andrew is a strong believer in mentorship to develop the next generation of trade leaders, and noted the current lack of talented middle and senior management, particularly in developing countries to continue the work.

“This is perhaps the single greatest barrier to enhancing global trade. Leadership roles are emerging in every aspect of global trade and the younger generation has an opportunity to fill this vacuum and take the reins of trade development in the next 20 years.

Old models of management are proving unreliable or ineffective for some companies that are grappling with a growing global presence and complex trade issues. Talented management requires great education and mentors, and ton of hands-on experience. The world is coming closer together through cross-border trade and this will lead to a cultural change in the way we educate our future leaders.”

For the younger generation, Andrew said it is very important to grab each opportunity as it comes.

“My advice is to follow your instincts and interests in any career you chose. There are ample opportunities in the trade field, but finding the one that fits your temperament and ambitions may take time. Working up through an organization and seeing as many different areas of the company or agency as possible is very important.

Get a diverse and rich experience and don’t be afraid to move to new and different countries, cities. Never stagnate, embrace opportunity and the diversities of working in new and different areas and cultures. It has served me very well for the past 30 years.”

Andrew also noted the importance of mastering the language of global commerce, which is English. He said Chinese, French, Spanish and Japanese are also growing in prominence. Andrew speaks Italian and Spanish, and a little Vietnamese and Chinese.

“The language of global commerce is English – learn it well. The global trading system is primarily based on Western business norms and traditions – learn them well. Most importantly, global trade is an enormous agent of change. Use it in any pursuit to make the world better, safer, cleaner, more humane. Trade is good. Trade is drawing us together. So, embrace it.”

Eventually, Andrew would like to do more trade promotion work and more compliance work in developing nations and be part of trade missions that bring new technologies and advancements to developing countries to promote social welfare and environmental awareness.

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