Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs
Monday, August 13, 2012

Svoboda supports U.S. international trade policies in oil, gas sector

Julius Svoboda

At the International Trade Administration, Julius Svoboda works to give U.S. oil and gas companies better access to foreign markets.

As an oil and gas trade specialist with the U.S. Department of Commerce, the 2007 alum works on policy issues that support the competitiveness of U.S. oil and gas equipment and service providers that are accessing foreign markets.

"The Office of Energy and Environmental Industries within the International Trade Administration deals mainly with trade policy," Svoboda says. "We study the local situations in different countries to help U.S. companies that are looking for customers to buy oil and gas equipment and services. Our emphasis is on policy issues, so we have a thorough understanding of the different policies other countries have in regard to oil and gas. We also work with other U.S. agencies and trade associations to create positions on different policies that other governments might have."

For example, shale gas has become big business in recent years, and U.S. firms are major suppliers of technology to produce it. "My job is to better understand aspects of that sector and then advise the U.S. Foreign and Commercial Service," Svoboda says. "The ITA focuses government resources on countries that have the most potential for U.S. equipment and service providers."

In determining which countries ITA should focus on, Svoboda uses his La Follette School training, especially the quantitative methods for public policy, course numbers 818 and 819, as well as the macro- and micro-economics. The training often helps him bring focus to a discussion. "It is amazing how people get lost in the minutia," Svoboda says, "or, if they never took econ and stats, they cannot articulate why something might work in a certain way. It's been great for me to have that background. Even just being able to cite basic economic principles in a meeting or an email can really change the tone of the conversation and help us get down to better policy analysis."

After graduating from George Washington University in 2002, Svoboda earned another degree in international relations at the Diplomatische Akademie Wien in Vienna, Austria. Returning to Washington, he then worked for GW's housing office for two years. It was during this time that he realized for one to get involved in policy work in Washington, D.C., one really needs a master's degree.

Svoboda came to La Follette in 2005. While earning his Master of International Public Affairs degree, he served as president of the La Follette School Student Association. He worked on European Union environmental policies as a project assistant with now former La Follette professor Jonathan Zeitlin. He interned with the Bavarian State Ministry for the Environment, Health and Consumer Protection.

The La Follette degree has opened doors for Svoboda, giving him the credibility and training needed to shape a career in Washington, D.C. "The courses are taught by well-qualified professors," he says, "and La Follette does a good job of recruiting high-quality students, and I found myself in a cohort of well-motivated and smart individuals."

In 2010 Svoboda married a member of his La Follette cohort, Rachel Moskowitz, who is a health policy analyst with the Government Accountability Office. They were members of the same study group for economics and statistics during their first semester. "We did a lot of studying at Michaelangelo's and Espresso Royale on upper State Street," Julius says. "We started dating second semester, and we've been together ever since."

After graduating in 2007, Julius and Rachel headed back to Washington. He spent a year with the GAVI Fund doing mostly fund-raising, and then became an evaluations analyst for the U.S. Trade and Development Agency before moving to ITA in 2010.

There, Svoboda also is the designated federal officer for the Industry Trade Advisory Committee on Energy and Energy Services, a federal committee that provides industry-specific recommendations on trade policies to the secretary of commerce and the U.S. trade representative.

The job has offered a number of opportunities not only in Washington, but abroad as well. Last summer he was asked to attend the U.S.-China Oil and Gas Industry Forum in Chengdu, China, to be the policy expert for the deputy assistant secretary for ITA. "I was back in D.C. for 48 hours and then left for Rio for the Offshore Technology Conference," he says, "because I was also asked to be the policy expert for the undersecretary of ITA. When we met with different officials and trade associations to discuss oil and gas policies, it was me they would turn to with questions. It was an amazing opportunity to be so engaged in the policymaking process."