The View from Down Under
Talking trade with Adobe government relations team member Jennifer Mulveny.
Adobe Director of Government Relations for the Asia-Pacific Region and Former Deputy Assistant United States Trade Representative for Congressional Affairs Jennifer Mulveny sat down to discuss her career and the importance of trade in the 21st Century.
You’ve had such an interesting career. Can you walk through your background and how you ended up at Adobe?
Going way back to how I got started in the trade world, I was pretty lucky. I always feel very grateful for the opportunities I had. Out of college, I was looking for any available staff assistant job on Capitol Hill. To this day, the best career decision I ever made was taking a Senate internship between my junior and senior year of college instead of moving to the beach with my friends.
It was worth it because by the time I graduated I had that little bit of value on my resume that a lot of other people didn’t. I heard there was an opening on the Ways and Means Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, and it just so happened to be with the Trade Subcommittee. I grabbed the opening and immediately dove right into all the issues that were hot topics back then. Everything from China joining the WTO to providing trade benefits to the developing countries of the world such as Africa and the Caribbean, it was very exciting, and I was immediately attracted to the global policy world.
I recall creating official briefing books for Members of the Committee traveling to these amazing places — Geneva, Santiago, Beijing. I felt so incredibly envious of their journeys as I photocopied news clips and punched holes in them for their giant notebooks. My parents never supported me studying abroad and goodness knows as a staff assistant on Capitol Hill, I certainly couldn’t afford such a trip at that time. I didn’t even have a passport. So I lived quite vicariously.
The trade policy work on Capitol Hill set me on my path to working at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative working in the George W. Bush Administration, where I was the only political person who worked for all three U.S. trade representatives under President Bush. I talked to President Bush about trade a couple of times and that was pretty exciting.
I then moved to the private sector, did some consulting, and finally jumped into the technology sector working for HP and moved to Australia working for Intel Corporation to launch Intel’s government relations role there. As an aside, I like to say I finally got revenge on my parents for not letting me study abroad by moving to the other side of the planet.
Fast forward to where I am today, I heard that Adobe was hiring someone who would be responsible for government relations beyond Australia and New Zealand, and that caught my attention. The role was very appealing to me not only because of the increased regional responsibility in Asia, but also because Adobe’s Asia-Pacific headquarters is in Sydney. I knew I would be working in the center of gravity for the Asia-Pacific region for a great company. So, I grabbed the opportunity and have been with Adobe since May of 2017.
What’s been so great about working for Adobe?
I was attracted to Adobe because as we all like to say here, it is so much more than just PDF and Photoshop, particularly in the government space, although much of government isn’t aware of this. I was excited for the challenge in raising Adobe’s brand in government by demonstrating what Adobe does to really help make governments look good. Creating better citizen services is something I’m passionate about, and I think it’s great that Adobe is meeting that challenge head on. It’s been a lot of fun to see light bulbs go off for Ministers in Parliament when I tell them what we do, especially when we provide services that can help quickly fix problems they have been trying to crack for years.
What key issues are you focusing on in the region?
In the past year or so, it’s been mostly privacy and cybersecurity. For example, if we’re trying to get Adobe to drastically transform the government experience with a customer portal, there are obviously privacy issues that come into play with that. The discussion around balancing privacy and citizen convenience is constantly evolving, and we can bring our global perspective to the table, not just what we see in Australia.
Why is trade so important to the United States and Asia-Pacific?
One of the most important things about trade that people tend to overlook is that it’s not just about lowering of tariffs and non-tariff barriers. That is certainly important for moving products across borders, but for companies like Adobe, it’s most importantly about agreeing to rules for trade and investment. When we have trade agreements with enforceable rules that all parties agree to, whether that’s the WTO or as part of a bilateral arrangement, it’s constantly raising the bar to ensure that countries at all levels of economic development are on the same page. It’s setting the rules of the game so companies and countries alike have some predictability.
Why are trade agreements like Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) so critical?
What we saw with the TPP was the bar really being raised, particularly in the so-called “21st Century” trade areas like moving data across borders. A lot of countries are proposing quite arbitrary laws requiring that data be held within the borders of a their country, which makes it hard for small businesses, for example, to host even their customer data base or email server offshore. What’s better is to address concerns that countries have with moving data across borders, such as in a cybersecurity dialogue.
I think the TPP also raised the bar for digital trade globally, even though the United States, unfortunately, is no longer party to the agreement. The language on liberalizing the movement of data is still the new high standard, and therefore other countries that want to do trade agreements will hopefully use the TPP language as a starting point in negotiations, whether that’s India or the EU. I think that’s a really good thing.
What’s your advice for leaders in the Asia-Pacific region, including the United States, on trade after TPP?
Trade is really important, and the dialogue needs to continue even if there actually isn’t a TPP framework or if the original parties aren’t currently at the table. Having a positive dialogue around trade barriers that are impacting small and big businesses alike, consumers, workers, and of course geopolitics, is absolutely beneficial whether or not you have a TPP framework. It’s a very different world these days and rules are going to play a bigger role. The WTO had only 120 members in 1996. Now it has over 160 countries that have to come to a consensus on rules. That’s hard, particularly in a world where free trade is not a terribly popular policy right now. It’s never been easy to sell to constituencies.
The exchange of ideas that comes from trade agreements, taking down barriers and creating rules-based regimes is a positive outcome. Trade is hard, and it’s not a popular issue or one that is easy to sell to the public and we’re seeing that today. The politics are switching a little, which is very fascinating to see.