by Sean Grossnickle
Hey guys, Sean Grossnickle reporting in, Public Service Fellow in the IPED program. This summer I am interning at the US Embassy to the Kingdom of Belgium (yes, it’s a kingdom!) with the Foreign Commercial Service. This agency helps US companies who wish to export find new markets and aids foreign companies who wish to invest in the US navigate the process. So, what do I do on a daily basis? I’m glad you asked.
Briefing checklists for the ambassador: The ambassador is a very busy man with many important meetings with people he has never met from companies that he has (many times) never heard of. Part of my job is to prepare a document for each commercial encounter that lists the reason for the meeting, who he is meeting with (including biographies), background on the company and their operations in Belgium, what the schedule looks like, opening remarks/talking points, and occasionally a speech. The idea is that he can read this document right before each meeting and quickly get up to speed on what he needs to know to make it successful.
Hosting commercial receptions: US companies can pay to have the embassy do a promotional event for their product/service at the embassy/official residence of the ambassador and have the ambassador attend. This is a great way to add weight to their sales pitch and connect with Belgian companies. Someone has to take care of the details (security, invitations, name tags, greeting guests, etc.) and be the host, which is where I come in.
Company background checks: Want to do business with a Belgian company but don’t know if they exist or are trustworthy? A US business can pay to have the commercial service investigate a potential business partner, which includes a site visit to ensure their business is legit. This, of course, includes a nice write-up with relevant information on the company.
Shipping disputes: Not sure why your shipment is stuck in the port of Antwerp and cannot get out? You can reach out to the embassy to have them investigate. The reality is sometimes you don’t get answers until the government gets involved. I help identify communication breakdowns and try to resolve them.
I could regale you with tales of me visiting an oil refinery, meeting the Deputy Secretary of Commerce, encountering Belgian political drama, and/or creating stellar promotional brochures, but I am sure you’ve had enough by now. I hope to use this internship to prepare to apply for the US Presidential Management Fellowship and continue to develop my understanding of international political economy. Until next time!