A native of Thessaloniki in northern Greece, Petros Mavroidis joined Columbia as a half-time faculty member (teaching in the fall) after four semesters as a visiting professor. Prof. Mavroidis, who earned his law degree at the University of Thessaloniki and has an LL.M. from Berkeley, originally focused his work on antitrust and public international law.
Because the subject of international trade encompasses both areas, and because the field was gaining popularity in the late 1980s, he decided to pursue his Ph.D. in the subject. Since then, his work has been primarily on the WTO.
Prof. Mavroidis, who worked in the WTO's legal division in the 1990s, has written extensively on the organization and its predecessor, GATT. Judging from the increasing enrollment in Prof. Mavroidis's courses on the WTO, there is also a growing appreciation of its relevance in the world today.
He is quick to point out that Columbia's offerings in international human rights are an essential complement to offerings on trade law.
"If you want to be a public international lawyer, you need to examine it from many points of view," he says. "Trade can teach you to be a wealthier person, but not a better person. Trade is a means to enhance the pie, but how you cut it is a matter of preference for each society."
Prof. Mavroidis has remained active with the WTO. While teaching at the University of Neuchatel in Switzerland, he spent several days each month as a pro bono lawyer at the WTO, helping developing countries to settle disputes. He will continue to do this work - via fax and e-mail - at Columbia, he says.
Prof. Mavroidis is also involved with the American Law Institute as a chief co-reporter on the principles of WTO law, which will lead eventually to a series of legal recommendations. He says he hopes to see the WTO succeed not against the wheels of governments but as a consensus-driven organization.
"In many areas of international law, as we see in Iraq, you have true fighting between governments," he says. "The WTO is one of the few areas in which you have states striving for true cooperation. At a certain level, trade means communication, and communication is the way to avoid wars."