Trade commissioners play a pivotal part in helping businesses navigate the complexities of researching, accessing and expanding into a new market. The Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) and its globally stationed team of Trade Commissioners provides practical advice on foreign markets to help people working in international trade make better, more timely and cost-effective decisions to achieve their business goals.
The role of a trade commissioner is a highly specialized one as it entails equipping exporters with the knowledge and guidance they need to help their ventures to expand and thrive. In an ever-evolving global business landscape, where a myriad of factors impacts how trade progresses, it is imperative for these professionals to acquire a deep, well-rounded understanding of the various aspects of international trade.
For many years now, trade commissioners have been relying on FITTskills training to help them build a strong understanding of the full spectrum of international trade. The globally recognized FITTskills courses develop holistic knowledge on the subject, along with providing practical, hands-on skills to tackle the day-to-day challenges and complexities that help these advisors understand the challenges their clients face. Earning the prestigious CITP designation – a validation of their expertise and commitment to international trade, marks a special milestone in their professional journey.
In this article, we highlight the career trajectory of 5 trade commissioners who share the insights they’ve gleaned from their professional experiences, and about the motivations and inspirations that have shaped their success.
Asmae Amrouche, Trade Commissioner, Embassy of Canada to Morocco and Mauritania
What Asmae Amrouche loves about a career in international trade is that it gives her an opportunity to interact with people from diverse cultures. It gives her a special satisfaction to be working alongside her colleagues and counterparts in other missions, motivated by the same goals, interests and dreams.
Her first trade mission in 1998, which resulted in a Canadian company opening an office in Morocco, is one of her earliest accomplishments. Asmae has more recently been involved with the launch of the EduCanada fair in Morocco.
Asmae’s motto in life is to never stop learning. In keeping with that guiding principle, she opened her path to career progression by signing up for FITTskills online courses.
“It was an exciting and rewarding challenge which, along with imparting me with a deeper understanding of the nuances of international trade, also fostered a sense of belonging to a community of learners on a similar path as myself.”
Asmae feels honored to have earned the elite CITP designation and believes that the credibility and validation that it brings to her expertise will help her to further her professional goals.
Fabien Lichota, Trade Commissioner, Global Affairs Canada
When Fabien Lichota was completing his MBA in International Management at Laval University in Quebec city, he decided to join a program called “Les missions commerciales de l’Université Laval” and was selected as a trade agent for the 2015-2016 cohort. At his first assignment, he was tasked with representing a Quebec-based maple syrup producer to explore the South Korean market. His work was so well appreciated that the company offered him another tenure, this time in Poland. There too, he successfully found two distributors for the firm he was representing.
“In the meantime, I re-involved myself in the Université Laval Trade Missions program and was selected as head of mission, where I coordinated and supported 13 trade agents to complete their very own mission in South Africa. It was an amazing experience and a first shot at managing such a large team abroad!”
Upon completing his studies, Fabien joined the Trade Commissioner Service at Global Affairs Canada.
“Travelling all around the world during my studies, working in trade, as well as making numerous contacts abroad and working closely with the TCS abroad gave me the motivation to pursue my career in that field.”
Representing a Canadian company in Poland, where Fabien is originally from, was truly a dream come true for him.
“Doing business in Polish (in my parent’s homeland) and selling maple syrup (a Canadian flagship product) was probably the coolest thing I’ve done.”
Fabien’s proudest accomplishment by far is being selected as Head of Mission for South Africa where he supported 13 new international trade professionals through their journey for the span of a whole year.
Reminiscing on his professional journey so far, if there’s one learning Fabien would like to pass on to others just starting out, it would be to work hard and never take anything for granted.
“It’s important to gain trust and make a name for yourself.”
The logical next step towards advancing his career was earning the CITP designation – an elite benchmark of excellence for international trade professionals.
Today, as the proud holder of the CITP designation, Fabien feels that all his hard work and varied experiences across sectors has been validated. He is confident that the credential will bring exciting opportunities and challenges his way in the years ahead.
“I think that I’d like to be seen as a hard-working individual; resilient, ambitious, dynamic and results orientated. I hope that this designation will also give me the tools to better accomplish my day-to-day work and will help me grow in the international trade space.”
Gabriel Bastien, Senior Advisor International Trade & Economics, Global Affairs, Canada
Gabriel Bastien’s interest in international trade was whetted when he decided to travel to Egypt in 2013, while at university. This decision was prompted by a desire to move outside of his comfort zone and experience what it’s like to live and work in a foreign country, and to be exposed to a different culture and environment.
It was in Egypt that he got an opportunity to absorb and marvel at the diversity in our world, which added much depth to his perspectives. Through this experience Gabriel first grasped the full magnitude of the inter-connections of trade, social sciences, and geopolitical spheres.
“This experience truly turned my life around and upon my return in knee-deep January snow, I oriented my life towards a different path which made me who I am today.”
Gabriel then went on to complete his undergraduate degree in Commerce from Concordia University (John Molson School of Business), a Master’s degree in International Business from HEC Montreal and a certificate in Public Policy Analysis from the London School of Business (LSE). He also had the opportunity to work at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal in the trade division and refined his awareness for international trade and relations by getting actively involved with the Model United Nations’ competitions.
One of Gabriel’s most fulfilling professional achievement to date is his involvement with the Canadian Technology Accelerator Program (CTA), with the Trade Commissioner Service, Global Affairs Canada. The CTA program connects innovative Canadian tech SMEs with partners in global innovation hubs, accelerating their growth and their understanding of the markets.
“Some of the proudest accomplishments stem from seeing, reading or hearing some of our program participants (Canadian SMEs/Startups) talk about how our CTA program and the Trade Commissioner Service has helped them achieve success. These are the real gems that we’re after as Trade Commissioners, and it makes it all worth it.”
A nugget of wisdom Gabriel would like to share is to “go out into the world and expand your horizons”. Although it’s by no means an easy task, it’s most certainly worth it, as it broadens the mind and forces one to understand new perspectives in life.
“You will gain a valuable, challenging experience which will result in tremendous personal growth as a person and as a human being. Dare to try it.”
Despite having a solid academic background in international trade, Gabriel was seeking practical, hands-on knowledge on the day-to-day processes in the various aspects of conducting business globally, which prompted him to sign up for FITTskills training.
“I think this training is definitely proving valuable for me, especially when strategizing on the type of program or steps a Canadian SME could/should take. As a result, I feel closer to Canadian entrepreneurs and can better comprehend the type of struggles they might experience with say, foreign banks, or suppliers.”
Gabriel particularly enjoyed the International Trade Finance course as it methodically explained the different types of financial risks and payment considerations for both an exporter and an importer.
Earning the CITP designation was a culmination of his efforts towards achieving validated expertise in international trade. It’s indeed a special milestone, as it adds credibility to Gabriel’s skills, experience and credentials as a knowledgeable and committed international trade practitioner.
He now looks forward to utilizing this complementary knowledge in his new role as Senior Advisor International Trade & Economics under the Latin America and Caribbean branch at Global Affairs Canada.
Want to learn more about the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP®|FIBP®) designation? See why it’s the world’s most recognized designation for competency and credibility in global business.
Prashanth Nair, Trade Commissioner – Digital Industries, Global Affairs Canada.
It was a happy accident that kickstarted Prashanth Nair’s journey into international trade. While heading the CRM implementation for Hutch (now Vodafone) for the North Indian Market, he got a call from a leading HR consultant asking if he would be interested in the position of Telecom Head with the British High Commission in New Delhi.
It was the persistence of the recruiter that lead Prashanth to agree to do the interview, and after the third round, he found that he really liked the dynamic role of an international trade executive that was being offered to him. There has been no turning back since then.
In his professional journey so far, Prashanth has been interacted with prime ministers, premiers, and head of states. These interactions have left an indelible mark and motivated him to further accelerate his international trade development objectives. His favourite career stories include working on numerous projects that have enabled businesses to grow and thrive.
“The exposure and connections my profile has provided has helped me develop, not only as a strong trade professional, but also a well rounded human being.”
Prashanth is particularly proud of his role in two projects that he holds dear to his heart. The first is de-escalating a business dispute for a leading Canadian handset manufacturer in India, which saved the company from a potential closure.
The other achievement is playing an instrumental part in securing the first client in the Indian market for a leading UK based telecom operator.
Prashanth believes that networking is a crucial skill for international trade professionals as it can open many paths and perspectives that you never knew existed.
The other vital advice he wishes to emphasize is to never underestimate the potential of any company as people will most likely end up pleasantly surprising you with their enterprising strategies and innovative spirit.
Seeking to formalize his knowledge of international trade, Prashanth began his journey with FITTskills training a few years ago. However, the unusual global circumstances of the last couple of years affected his momentum and he finally completed the training earlier this year.
“I am very happy with the way this journey has been for my learning experience. My favourite course was International Trade Finance as it taught me a lot of practical and actionable finance-related knowledge for my international trade profile.”
Prashanth went on to apply for the CITP designation and is proud and ecstatic to add the coveted title to his name and to join a community of well-respected and networked trade professionals.
I believe the designation will further build credibility with my international clients and help me apply the knowledge I have acquired through the certification and put it for better results on all my professional endeavours.”
Waqas Yousafzai, Trade Commissioner, Global Affairs Canada
Born and raised in Qatar, amid an extremely diverse peer group, Waqas Yousafzai would often notice his classmates returning from vacations abroad with a host of items and products from across the globe. The colours, textures, styles and languages fascinated him, and he knew from that moment on that he would love to pursue a career in international trade as it helps the world connect, learn, celebrate and appreciate its diverse self.
“Today, I consider myself very fortunate to work as a Canadian Trade Commissioner with the mandate to bring Canadian products and services to the world.”
Highlights from Waqas’ favourite career stories include attending the Doha International Maritime Defence Exhibition & Conference (DIMDEX) and the thirteenth session of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XIII) in Qatar.
In the first of these, he got the unique opportunity to tour 13 warships from 10 navies from around the world, where he learned about the future of defense systems from supply chain experts.
“Being on an active duty on USS Pearl Harbour with assault amphibious vehicles, landing craft air cushions, Humvees, and all its defensive and offensive capabilities was incredible to witness in person.”
The other experience was just as enriching as it entailed being present on the ground to report on and see multi lateral trade diplomacy in action at UNCTAD. That’s where Waqas could truly appreciate the complexity of international negotiations. The conference consisted of delegates from 195 states, speaking hundreds of languages with each stakeholder group coming to the table with their own specific mandates, priorities, and collaboration styles.
Waqas’ noteworthy career accomplishment consists of the time he was a part of Canada’s official development assistance to Mongolia, to train the Mongolian wool and cashmere firms in Ulaanbaatar on trade show and exhibition attendance, intercultural communications, and contract negotiation best practices. The training was a great success. The Mongolian firms then headed to Tokyo and New York to find distributors in those markets.
“It was a very rewarding to build a team of export executives at a nuts and bolts level (think trade booth flow, contact follow-up, and demonstrating product samples and customizability)”.
Waqas wishes he knew before-hand how multi-layered and multi-faceted international trade actually is. Today he can truly appreciate the many ways one can be involved in international trade, from trade policy to logistics to financing to trade shows, from supplier agreements to contract negotiations and market analysis.
To further his professional development, Waqas signed up for instructor-led FITTskills training. He found his instructor to be “top notch” and the FITT course content to be detailed and thorough.
“Post-completion, I still find myself referring to specific modules and notes to get a more wholesome understanding of a specific pain point before doing client follow up work. The modular nature of the courses meant that all the learnings from one module complemented and fed into other modules. The real life examples also provided for rich discussion.”
Waqar’s motivation to earn the CITP designation was to be able to demonstrate his commitment to excellence in international trade, and to connect with other designation holders and be a part of the larger network of CITPs around the world. Today, he feels proud at having completed the entire process to achieve the designation in just over 8 months.
“I foresee the CITP designation playing a key role in my future career as it helps demonstrate that I have a level of international trade proficiency.”
Asmae, Fabien, Gabriel, Prashanth and Waqas, each have fascinating stories to tell. But what’s common to them all is their talent, commitment to further the cause of international trade, and the willingness to do what it takes to keep growing professionally. Now equipped with a full spectrum or trade knowledge and a globally recognized designation beside their names, they are ready to advise their clients to find success in their exporting journeys.
LinkedIn: Rahim Mohtaram
LinkedIn: Rahim Mohtaram
Advance your career and build your professional credibility in the field of global business by earning the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation. The Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation is the world’s leading professional designation for the field of international business. So whether you’re new to global trade or have over a decade of direct experience, you’ll find the CITP designation can help advance your career and build your professional credibility. The CITP designation sets you apart in the competitive international business industry because it’s proof you possess the competencies global business experts have identified as being essential for a successful career in international trade. It also recognizes your dedication to ethical business practices and ongoing professional development—both of which are desirable traits for today’s global business practitioners. *Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) is trademarked for use within Canada. FITT International Business Professional (FIBP) is trademarked for use internationally. Both reflect the same FITT-certified designation. **Note: This represents one of the current pathways to the CITP. Based on FITT’s application for ISO 17024 accreditation, this process will change as of January 1, 2023
Learn more about the CITP®|FIBP® designation
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS CERTIFICATION—CITP®|FIBP®
Why Earn the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) Designation?
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Advance your career and build your professional credibility in the field of global business by earning the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation.
The Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) designation is the world’s leading professional designation for the field of international business. So whether you’re new to global trade or have over a decade of direct experience, you’ll find the CITP designation can help advance your career and build your professional credibility.
The CITP designation sets you apart in the competitive international business industry because it’s proof you possess the competencies global business experts have identified as being essential for a successful career in international trade. It also recognizes your dedication to ethical business practices and ongoing professional development—both of which are desirable traits for today’s global business practitioners.
*Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) is trademarked for use within Canada. FITT International Business Professional (FIBP) is trademarked for use internationally. Both reflect the same FITT-certified designation.
**Note: This represents one of the current pathways to the CITP. Based on FITT’s application for ISO 17024 accreditation, this process will change as of January 1, 2023