International lawyers are often called upon to provide practical solutions beyond the courtroom or boardroom by their clients, employees, partners, shareholders and community at large. Often, these solutions require bringing together the right partners within the community. Non-lawyer international professionals will be featured periodically in this blog as resources that might be helpful to you in your practice.
Meet Damian Felton, Director of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service office in Milwaukee.
What is the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service?
The U.S. Commercial Service is the trade promotion arm of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. U.S. Commercial Service trade professionals in over 100 U.S. cities and in more than 75 countries help U.S. companies get started in exporting or increase sales to new global markets.
What can the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service do for U.S. companies?
Whether you’re looking to make your first export sale or expand to additional international markets, the U.S. Commercial Service offers the trade counseling, market intelligence, business matchmaking, and commercial diplomacy you need to connect with lucrative business opportunities. In addition, we will help you to develop trade finance and insurance strategies that align with your particular business objectives and help you complete your export transaction.
Where did you receive your undergraduate education, and what was your major?
I received a B.S. in accounting from the University of Alabama.
What other education did you receive, if any?
A couple years ago I was selected by the U.S. Department of Commerce to study at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Executive Education for the Practice of Trade Policy.
Tell us about your professional background.
I started my career as an auditor, working for the Office of the Inspector General at the Department of Defense. I also worked at a couple public accounting firms in D.C. but I eventually realized that accounting/auditing was not where my interests lied.
How did you become involved in the international area?
After leaving public accounting I took a job at the U.S. Department of Commerce that focused on calculating specific kinds of import duties, called antidumping and countervailing duties. This job required a strong understanding of accounting principles and, for me, it also opened the door to international trade. I was fortunate to work on several cases involving subsidized imports of chemicals and steel from China, and I led verification teams to conduct due diligence of Chinese companies’ and Chinese government agencies’ financial reporting.
Jennifer Jin, Notre Dame 2008, provides compliance, audit defense, and litigation services to companies relating to taxes and international trade as a member of Husch Blackwell’s Technology, Manufacturing & Transportation team in Milwaukee.
I was then privileged to work for the U.S. Department of Commerce at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, China, focusing on market access issues for U.S. companies facing antidumping and countervailing duties issued by the Chinese government. I now work at the U.S. Department of Commerce office located in Milwaukee where I help Wisconsin businesses with expanding their export capabilities. Simply put, my path to international trade has not been a linear one.
What do you wish that attorneys you interacted with knew or where aware of when they interact with you?
Not enough people know that the U.S. Department of Commerce has staff in over 72 countries and 124 cities therein who are working to promote U.S. goods and services in overseas markets. These Commerce officials are resources to U.S. companies looking to gain market intelligence and find foreign buyers. Please keep this resource in mind if you have a client that is exporting a product.
What do you feel is the next hot topic in the area that you work?
Negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership have concluded. The American people and stakeholders have been reviewing the legal text of the agreement. It will be interesting how lawmakers from both parties deliberate on whether to implement this FTA.