16 January 2024

A Journey in International Trade

Master student in the International and Development Studies programme (MINT), Andrea Bulnes specialises in sustainable trade. She shares her journey from the Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Trade to the Geneva Graduate Institute and beyond, in pursuit of a more equitable society.

Trade is often perceived simply as exchanging goods and services for profit. However, to me, it means something more. Trade is an exchange of cultures and knowledge, a catalyst of opportunities and empowerment, and a significant part of my personal story.

¡Hola! My name is Andrea Bulnes from Peru. I studied in Lima at the oldest university of the Americas, the National University of San Marcos. My trade journey began in its classrooms, where I pursued a degree in International Business Administration. But my learning extended beyond academics; I engaged in politics and social volunteering, sparking my passion for public service. This led me to the International Trade Negotiations Course by Peru's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, paving my way in the intersection of trade and public service.

Following the course, I had the opportunity to join the Ministry to work in trade negotiations in services and e-commerce and represent Peru in international forums. This experience allowed me to see the benefits of open trade policies in promoting economic growth and opportunities. However, I also realised that these advantages were only reaching some. There was still work to achieve a more sustainable and inclusive trade. This realisation strengthened my commitment to continue working in the field.

After more than three  years at the Ministry, I was ready to take the next step in my journey. Geneva was my next stop, where I joined the International and Development Studies programme with a focus — of course — on sustainable trade at the Geneva Graduate Institute, thanks to a full scholarship.  Geneva's international environment, filled with events and networking opportunities, further fuelled my passion, especially through seeing and listening to inspirational women in trade like Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala of the WTO, Pamela Coke-Hamilton of the ITC, and Rebeca Grynspan of UNCTAD.

In my second year, I returned to the field, this time from a unique vantage point: working with international organisations instead of from a national perspective. My summer internship at the International Trade Forum (ITC), a joint agency of the UN and WTO, involved supporting Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in developing countries. Working in trade technical assistance for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, I found common challenges with Peruvian SMEs: trade assistance is key to helping them overcome market difficulties, compete better, and achieve sustainable growth globally and locally.

As part of my internship, I returned to the WTO Public Forum (PF) in 2023, not just as a student as in my first year, but this time representing ITC. In the ITC booth, I shared the organisation's mission and work with attendees.

The WTO PF is the largest outreach event in trade that brings together leaders, experts, academics, and students for a week of discussions on the latest developments in global trade and to propose ways of enhancing the multilateral trading system. This experience was doubly amazing because some weeks later, I joined the WTO as an intern!

So far, this has been my journey in trade. Currently, I am interning in the WTO’s services and investment, working on the trade topic that I like the most: digital economy. Now, I can see negotiations from the other side of the table, not as a country member, but from the perspective of the WTO Secretariat, which facilitates these discussions and aids in setting up the trade rules. My journey, beginning in  Peru and extending globally, is driven by a desire to contribute to a world where trade is fair, sustainable, and inclusive, fostering a more equitable society.

Andrea Bulnes representing the ITC at its booth during the 2023 WTO Public Forum.