Five people sit around a conference table talking

Clemson University Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture George Askew (left) chats with Acting Under Secretary of the International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce Joe Semsar (right, dark jacket) during a meeting in the Strom Thurmond Institute.

Joseph C. Semsar, acting Under Secretary of Commerce for International Trade at the International Trade Administration (ITA), recently paid a visit to his alma mater as part of an official two-day trip to the Upstate.

Semsar graduated Clemson with a bachelor’s degree in political science. He went on to earn a Master of Public Administration degree from the University of Pennsylvania’s Fels Institute of Government before embarking on a distinguished career that ultimately led to his current leadership role in the ITA.

“It always feels good to be back at Clemson,” said Semsar. “As we were thinking about this trip, we started looking at all the incredible work that Clemson is doing on the export controls front, which obviously is a big topic right now. I saw that we were going to be ten minutes away from campus so I couldn’t resist dropping by.”

The International Trade Administration (ITA) is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce that promotes United States exports of nonagricultural U.S. services and goods. Its mission is to strengthen the competitiveness of U.S. industry, promote trade and investment, and ensure fair trade through the rigorous enforcement of U.S. trade laws and agreements.

Two men in suits sit behind a table laughing

Acting Under Secretary Joe Semsar (left), and International Trade Commission Chief of Staff Bradley McKinney (center) share a laugh with Vice President for Research Tanju Karanfil (foreground).

As under secretary Semsar is responsible for all activities of the ITA. He coordinates all issues concerning international trade policy and promotion, trade law enforcement, trade agreements compliance, investment, and global competitiveness and directs the development of trade policy recommendations and positions.

Semsar met with several senior members of Clemson’s faculty on the main campus including Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture George Askew, Vice President for Research Tanju Karanfil and Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Constancio Nakuma. The group spent nearly two hours discussing export control, Clemson Extension’s role in economic development, and opportunities for the ITA and Clemson to work together in mutually beneficial ways.

“It’s great to team up with my alma mater to hopefully do some good in the world,” said Semsar. “I’ve been blessed to step into this leadership capacity, so I’m looking for ways to plug both students and faculty into substantive programming that moves us all forward.”

Askew came away from the meeting feeling energized about the new partnership with Semsar’s team.A man in a suit sits behind a conference table and makes the quotation gestures with his hands

“Among other topics, our discussion with Under Secretary Semsar focused on the potential for us to collaborate on programs to improve economic conditions both in the U.S. and abroad relative to agriculture,” Askew said. “I’m looking forward to continuing our discussion to identify specific opportunities to engage with ITA.”

In addition to his visit to the Clemson campus Semsar also visited the Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research (CU-ICAR) campus in Greenville, where he got an overview of the groundbreaking engineering program from Clemson Trustee David Wilkins, Assistant Vice President and Executive Director of CU-ICAR David Clayton, and Automotive Engineering Department Chair Zoran Filipi.

“The thing that I’ve been most impressed by is the industry engagement with all of these programs at Clemson like CU-ICAR,” said Semsar, noting CU-ICAR’s long string of partnerships with companies like BMW, Toyota, GM and Ford.

Semsar reiterated his desire to get students involved in his line of work, which offers high levels of challenge and reward that could appeal to the kinds of scholars who come to Clemson.

A man sits behind a conference table intently listening to someone speak“I truly am looking to engage Clemson students in our international trade and investment programs. The university’s academic rigor coupled with its rich culture prepares CU students to provide value on day one. We need more Tiger alumni at the negotiating table, advocating on behalf of US industry and American economic values”

During his two days in the area the under secretary also spoke to the Automotive Summit, along with Governor McMaster, toured the BMW plant and the Glen Raven Custom Fabrics plant, and spoke to a business roundtable coordinated by the Greenville Chamber of Commerce.

Before joining the ITA, Semsar served as the Chief of Staff to the Deputy Secretary of Commerce. In this role, he was actively engaged in all aspects of running the 47,000 employee Department, including both interagency and intra-agency management, oversight, and policy initiatives. Prior to that he served at the United States Office of Personnel Management’s Office of the Director as the Deputy Chief of Staff and Acting Communications Director and worked for Deloitte Consulting LLP’s Federal Practice, serving a diverse array of clients. He is a Teach for America former staff member and corps member alumnus, where he earned a Teacher of the Year award. Semsar is also a former Clemson University Alumni Association Board of Directors member, and a past president of the Clemson Young Alumni Council. Joe and his wife, Jenna, also a Clemson alumna, live in Washington, DC.

A group of seven people stand in front of a large digital screen

Acting Under Secretary for the International Trade Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce Joe Semsar (third from left), a 2008 Clemson University graduate, meets with faculty and staff members from Clemson’s Public Service and Agriculture and Research divisions including Associate Provost for Academic Affairs Constancio Nakuma (second from left),  Vice President for Public Service and Agriculture George Askew (center), and Vice President for Research Tanju Karanfil (third from right).