The defining feature of the seminar on WTO Law, taught by Professors Petros C. Mavroidis and George A. Bermann '75 LL.M., is the series of weekly guest speakersóleading economists, political scientists, and lawyersówho present their research. Prior to the session, the speaker submits a paper prepared specifically for the class. Students read the paper and write two-page reactions, which are given to the presenter in advance. On the day the guest speaker comes, two discussants from related fields attend as well, participating in the roundtable discussion. Together, these guests bring the most up-to-date research to bear on questions such as: How should developing countries that have unequal bargaining power be treated within the WTO? Should developing countries that do not have trained representatives be assigned pro bono counsel at the WTO? When it comes to concerns like genetically modified organisms, how much can states do to protect human safety when there is insufficient information concerning risk?
Students benefit from Professor Mavroidis's experience with the WTO and Professor Bermann's writings on comparative law and transnational litigation. Photo credit: Dustin Ross
"There is an extraordinary dialogue between the students and people who have been immersed in the subject," says Prof. Bermann. "Students are coming to grips with the most cutting-edge issues in the field. This seminar pushes boundaries."
Guest speakers have included Alan Sykes, a leading WTO international trade lawyer from the University of Chicago; Jayashree Watal, an economist and chief counselor with the intellectual property division of the WTO; Patrick Messerlin, an economist with the Institut des Sciences Politiques in Paris; and Merit Janow '88, a judge on the WTO appellate body in Geneva.
Early in the seminar, students are brought up to speed on the WTO, the only global international organization that deals with the rules of trade between nations. Every two years, the seminar takes a different legal focus. In past years, that focus has been the WTO's dispute-resolution procedures, issues of health and safety, and trade and developing countries.
The seminar's students, who include foreign LL.M. students and visiting scholars, benefit from the professors' rich experience. Prof. Mavroidis, a prominent scholar of the WTO, has been providing pro bono legal assistance to developing countries. Prof. Bermann is a leading scholar of comparative law and transnational litigation and trade who has dedicated his career to increasing understanding between the United States and Europe. The two professors have co-authored the first casebook on the WTO. In addition, Cambridge University Press is launching a new book series, "The Columbia Series on WTO Law and Policy," based on the seminar. The volumes, which will appear every two years, will include in final form the papers presented during the seminar.
"Future WTO seminars will tackle the themes of intellectual property, immigration, corporate investment, or cross-border provision of professional services," says Prof. Mavroidis. "Students take this seminar because it's undoubtedly the most comprehensive WTO course in the country."