Kanika Gupta ’17 LL.M.
2016–2017 Jagdish Bhagwati Fellow
Growing up in Bhopal, India, the site of the world’s worst industrial disaster, helped steer Kanika Gupta ’17 LL.M. towards the law. The 1984 gas leak “was a huge case with severe environmental implications that highlighted the legal challenges,” she recalls. Add to that her family story—her father was a judge; her mother an economics professor—and her fate was sealed. “Now I’m interested in trade and investments, which require knowledge of economics, as well as law,” she says.
Gupta earned her law degree at Gujarat National Law University in Gandhinagar, India, in 2013. Two years later, she landed a job at India’s Ministry of Finance. As a legal associate, she had the opportunity to research investment policy issues and to help draft and negotiate investment treaties and trade agreements. “That was the turning point for me; that’s what got me to Columbia,” she says. “So many times I would be researching an issue, only to find that one of Columbia’s centers or professors had already done work in that area.”
Gupta is the recipient of Columbia Law School’s Jagdish Bhagwati Fellowship, sponsored by the Indian government and named for the world-renowned economist, who is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a University Professor at Columbia. The fellowship supports LL.M. students at the Law School who are interested in international trade law, WTO law, and related topics.
Explaining her passion, she says: “Investment treaty arbitration is an evolving and dynamic area with so many challenges yet to be resolved and policies yet to be reformed.” She adds that specialists can engage in a variety of important matters because many agreements, like the much-debated Trans-Pacific Partnership, impact interlinked issues including trade, labor, and the environment.
As an LL.M. student at the Law School, Gupta is excited to be in an interdisciplinary environment where she can attend seminars across a wide range of issues. “Everything here is taught in an interconnected way that relates trade or investment to the environment, or to human rights or labor issues,” she says. “That brings a broad perspective, which is important.”