Interview by Olamide Ogunlowo
Dr. Freeman fell in love with international trade while living and working in Hong Kong. She worked initially with the U.S. diplomatic service, then went on to work for a private company owned by an American firm. While working there, she had the opportunity to observe how international trade worked from end to end and has never looked back. Since then, she has held a series of roles in cross-border trade, across the U.S and Asia working to advance the needs of her clients. This work has given her the opportunity to travel to over 120 countries as an expert on trade development, entrepreneurship and ethics.
When asked about her best trade job, she highlighted her time as the President of the All-American Small Business Exporters Association. While there, she was fully engaged in the trade ecosystem helping small and minority owned businesses build technical capacity and access international business opportunities. A particular project that has stuck with her from her time at the AASBEA was when she successfully navigated the system of trade preferences to reduce the price of chair parts bought by the U.S Government.
Female mentors in international trade were hard to come by as Dr. Freeman chartered her career in trade. She has a lot of admiration for other women in the field, (and is greatly admired by our Chief Trade Strategist, Shawn Marie Jarosz). Her advice to other women looking to enter the industry is, “Learn before you try to do it. Learn about all the different roles and ecosystems.” She adds that “it gets easier as you become more experienced.” “You will develop more capacity, connections and access to finance as you build your business, it does not happen all and once, and you have to be determined. “
Looking towards the future, Dr. Freeman says we should expect cross border trade to become more complicated as countries begin to leverage digital capacity and deal with intellectual property issues. She acknowledges we are in a period where many countries are signing trade agreements so there will be new trade agreements that have to be learned and understood. “The industry is always changing, and I am always learning as I go along!”
At the end of our interview, I asked Dr. Freeman a series of rapid-fire trade questions to hear what comes immediately to mind.