#ElliottProud: David Salkeld

David Salkeld, MA International Affairs, Class of 2011, #ElliottProud Alumni

David Salkeld is an international trade attorney in Washington DC. Dave has been advising clients on compliance and major developments in international trade for over 13 years. More recently, Dave has started to focus on corporate social responsibility issues, such as U.S. enforcement of forced labor laws. Previously, Dave worked for five years as an attorney at U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on various trade and homeland security issues. Dave’s first job out of school was as an international trade analyst with the U.S. Department of Commerce where he worked on trade enforcement. Dave has a BA and an MA in International Affairs from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, as well as a JD from the George Washington University Law School. He is licensed to practice law in Maryland and the District of Columbia.

Describe your current position and what have you learned since being in the position?

Currently I am an international trade attorney in Washington DC. I have been in private practice for over 13 years advising clients on trade compliance matters and representing clients on trade matters before government agencies and in their trade activities with other businesses. I also monitor developments in international trade and compliance.  These types of activities include government negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements; implementation of trade measures – such as US trade duties against Chinese imports, duties on steel and aluminum products, and other trade retaliation measures. More recently, I have started to focus on corporate social responsibility issues, such as U.S. enforcement of forced labor laws. I have learned a lot about a variety of trade issues and how companies have to address them in everyday life. I have also learned about the impact of trade and economic issues on companies.

What professional organization, websites, or events would you recommend for students interested in your field, and why?

Some organizations are focused more on legal issues, so I will try to focus on more general international economics or international trade information for graduate students.   

I would recommend staying current on economic, trade and international events: subscribe to a major newspaper (or its website), the Economist or Financial Times for good reporting on economic events. In the international trade space, I think Washington International Trade Association (WITA) has useful information. In the trade compliance space, I would recommend organizations such as the American Association of Exporters and Importers (AAEI), International Compliance Professionals Association (ICPA), and the Organization for Women in International Trade (OWIT). Of course, USAJobs.gov for job openings and career paths in the U.S. Government. 

What was your favorite Elliott School course and why?

It is hard to pick out a particular course. I love history and enjoyed the history courses.  In terms of career development, however, the practical focus of the program was a huge asset—I gained a foundational understanding of economic activity and how politics and economics interplay in the global economy.  The courses on international economics are foundational to an understanding of trade. They have really helped me to better understand the trade and economic impacts that my clients are facing.

What part of your career do you find most challenging and how do you stay motivated?

It can be difficult to maintain a healthy work-life balance as an attorney. Additionally, attorneys often deal with stressful situations. It helps to keep things in perspective, such as learning to appreciate when you accomplish a task or finish a project. Some good advice I received when I entered private practice is to set time aside for yourself and your hobbies, so that you have a focus outside of your work.

If you could be safely quarantined anywhere in the world, where would you want to be and why?

I am going to change up this answer a little to discuss some of my favorite cities and where I want to go when it is safe to travel again (since most things are closed during quarantine).

Paris, Barcelona and Florence are very walkable cities with great museums, great sites and great food.  And if you want to go out in nature, Portland (Oregon), Seattle and Vancouver would be great places. I would like to visit again when the conditions are right.  I would like to visit Venice, Machu Picchu and Antarctica.


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The #ElliottProud profile series is managed by the Elliott School Office of Graduate Admissions and highlights graduate program alumni to answer common questions posed by prospective, incoming, and current students. For more information on this series or to submit questions, e-mail the Office of Graduate Admissions at esiagrad@gwu.edu.

The views expressed by students profiled do not necessarily represent those of organizations they work for, are affiliated with, or the Elliott School of International Affairs.