Iraqi Oil Officials Visit Columbia Law School for Training in Arbitration


As Iraq rebuilds its oil industry, members of the country’s Petroleum Contracting and Licensing Directorate visited Columbia Law School to tap the faculty’s broad expertise in resolving contractual disputes through arbitration.
“International arbitration has become a subject of enormous practical importance in today’s world in terms of dispute resolution,” said Professor George Bermann, who currently serves as the chief reporter of the American Law Institute’s new Restatement of the U.S. Law of International Commercial Arbitration.
Bermann, a leading expert on international trade contracts and transnational arbitration, led a group of panelists who spoke to about 20 members of the Petroleum Directorate, which is the part of Iraq’s oil ministry that handles contracts and negotiations with dozens of international oil companies. The three-day advanced training program, sponsored by the U.S. Commerce Department, focused on implementing contracts with international oil companies’ best practices for alternative dispute resolution.
“What we’re trying to do is offer them choices, offer them expertise and say this is what is happening in the international setting, and here’s what you can learn from it and take the best practices from it,” said Steve Gardner, chief counsel for the U.S. Commerce Department’s Commercial Law and Development Program.
The Law School has long been recognized for its scholarship on international arbitration. Columbia Law School is home to the American Review of International Arbitration, a quarterly review of recent developments and case notes. Co-edited by Hans Smit, the Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law, it is the only publication of its kind in the United States.
Also taking part in the training was Pieter H.F. Bekker, a Columbia lecturer-in-law who teaches a class on investment law and arbitration. Bekker led a discussion on drafting arbitration clauses.
“Iraq, like a lot of countries, is seeking to attract foreign direct investment,” said Bermann, the Jean Monnet Professor in EU Law and Walter Gellhorn Professor of Law. “One way is to offer some assurance to investors that there will be an opportunity for disputes, if they arise and can’t be settled, to be resolved in a neutral forum rather than a host country.”


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