18 Jul 2019

MILE Alumni Profiles: Jimena Sotelo

During the MILE programme you will be privileged to hear from high level trade experts from all over the world.

MILE 15 alumna Jimena Sotelo talks to the WTI about her work at the International Trade Centre and her experience with the MILE programme.

Jimena Sotelo is an Associate Trade Advisor at the ITC, a joint UN-WTO agency dedicated to support the internationalisation of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). She specialises in trade policy on services and e-commerce and has more than 8 years of experience in trade, having worked for international organisations and the private sector. She graduated the MILE programme summa cum laude and was the recipient of the first granted Thomas Cottier Award for her master´s thesis.

Can you explain the work that the ITC generally does?

The ITC is a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization dedicated to supporting SMEs with exporting. In that line of work, the ITC works closely with three main target audience groups: SMEs themselves, trade and investment support institutions and policy-makers at the international and national levels. More than 85% of the ITC´s country specific assistance goes into priority countries – LDCs and Africa.

What work does the Office of the Chief Economist and Export Strategy do? Can you explain some of the work you do in your position as Associate Trade Advisor?

The Office of the Chief Economist and Export Strategy delivers different kinds of work, from publications that look for enlightening trade policy discussions considering the SME perspective, to export strategies tailored to specific sectors and countries, which are many times endorsed by Governments and implemented at the national level.

Within this Office, I work for the Trade in Services project. I really enjoy working at the intersection of the private and public sectors on hot topics such as e-commerce and trade in services. On the one hand, I follow discussions on e-commerce at the World Trade Organization, while on the other, I contribute to export strategies that have a services component, having being involved in the consultations and writing of the Rwandan development strategy on ITES (IT-enabled services).

I also develop and tutor e-learning courses on trade in services, e-commerce and most recently on creative industries. I appreciate the diversity of my job and being able to work at the macro and micro levels, addressing policymakers through our publications and SMEs through our e-learning courses, for instance. These two years plus with the ITC have helped me master both the public and private sectors’ languages when it comes to trade – not an easy task!

I am currently working in a joint ITC-WTO project on the LDC services waiver. The idea is to make information on services market access more accessible for providers from least developed countries (LDCs). This information will be featured at the WTO-World Bank services database, I-TIP.

What did you do before the MILE, and what was your career path after you graduated?

Before joining the MILE programme in September 2014, I worked for the Department of Economic Development of the Organization of American States for five years. The topics I covered were mainly trade in services and global value chains. During that time, I had the opportunity to work on a project to support the integration of the Pacific Alliance, specifically on professional services. Besides doing some field research and working on a publication comparing the education and licensing requirements in specific professional sectors across the four countries, I also had the opportunity to go and present the results to the services negotiators when I was 25 years old.

Before joining the OAS in 2010, I worked in the trade division of the multinational company, DuPont, and in the Department for Foreign Trade of Banco Comafi, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. After the MILE, I joined the ICTSD in 2016, where I conducted research on trade in services and started following e-commerce discussions at the WTO very closely. After a year, I moved to the ITC.

How do you think the MILE helped you in your career?

The MILE programme helped me acquire a comprehensive understanding of the multilateral trading system, both from a legal and economic perspective. I deeply appreciate this dual nature of the programme and how it teaches you how to deal with topics that you might be uncomfortable with considering your previous background. The comprehensive but deep approach of the programme helped me understand trade policy better and made me question when I read or follow trade policy discussions at the WTO. In the end, a country´s interests are behind each statement and legal communication, as it should be. It is most interesting to be able to read one step forward when listening to interventions or reading legal documents.

Any advice for current students?

You will be uncomfortable and will feel pressure along this intense course. Hang in there and enjoy it! It is only during the MILE programme that you will be privileged to hear from high level trade experts from all over the world.