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A US Senior Commercial Diplomat Shares His Insights

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Breck Suite, Wright Hall
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Led by Robert J. (RJ) Donovan Jr., Senior Commercial Officer (SCO) with the US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service

  • Thinking of doing business in another county?
  • How does the US Foreign Commercial Service assist individuals and companies in doing this and why?
  • Who do you think is the biggest US car exporter?
  • When negotiating, learn how to behave in other countries in order not to offend or take offence.

In this discussion, learn about the Foreign Service, how to make it a career choice if you are interested, and listen (and chuckle) while RJ shares his international business experiences in Poland, Germany, China and Tanzania through storytelling.

About Robert J. Donovan Jr.

Robert J. Donovan Jr.Robert J. (RJ) Donovan Jr. is a Senior Commercial Officer (SCO) with the US Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service. A career U.S. diplomat, he was most recently posted as the first SCO to the United Republic of Tanzania where he led efforts to secure ground breaking multimillion dollar projects for US companies. Based in Dar es Salaam, he also oversaw partner post commercial activities for Malawi.

He began his Federal government career in 1993, as a policy analyst on Vice President Gore’s “Reinventing Government” task force. In that capacity, he developed and delivered recommendations to the Vice President on how to better structure US trade promotion and finance programs. As Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Coordinating Committee (TPCC), he helped develop the first National Export Strategy -- the Clinton administration’s first crosscutting export promotion plan.

He was sworn into the Foreign Commercial Service in 1998. His postings included managing the Silicon Valley US Export Assistance Center, where he worked closely with global firms, start-ups and the VC community. From 2001-2004 he served as Commercial Attaché in Warsaw, successfully advocating for a highly visible $1B US project. In 2004, he returned to Washington D.C. to take on the role of Director for Policy Coordination in the Office of the Under Secretary for International Trade, where he developed cross-cutting strategies aimed at opening key emerging markets for American firms.

From 2007-2011 he served as Director of Commerce’s Office of Financial Services Industries, working with the banking, insurance, private pensions and VC/PE sectors on their international competitiveness. In this capacity he oversaw U.S. financing support flowing through Ex-Im Bank, OPIC, and the Multilateral Development Banks, and led the U.S. delegation to the OECD’s Insurance and Private Pensions Committee. Focused on opening the Chinese financial services market, he also served as a lead US negotiator on the Joint Commission on Commerce & Trade.

RJ returned to Warsaw as SCO in 2011 where he was responsible for developing and implementing a Presidential initiative, the US -Polish Business Summit - which culminated in announcements of over $500 million in bilateral commercial projects and agreements. Before his assignment to Tanzania, he was the Principal Commercial Officer in Frankfurt, Germany where he led efforts to deepen US -German travel and tourism trade.

He holds a BA degree in Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; an MA in International Relations from the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs; and a Certificate in International Business Management from Georgetown University. He is conversant in Polish & German. In February 2014, he was awarded the Commerce Department’s Charles R. Meissner Award for selfless duty & excellence. In 2016 he was nominated for the State Department’s Herbert Salzman Award for excellence in advancing US international economic relations.