Faculty Focus

EU Law

Anu Bradford

Professor Anu Bradford brings a rigorous, incisive approach to the study of international trade law and the European Union

By Kaitlin Bell Barnett

Winter 2012

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Professor Anu Bradford’s desk in Jerome Greene Hall is covered with grim news articles about the economic fate of Europe.

Bradford, an expert in European Union law and international trade law, spends a great deal of time thinking about the gap between what Europe’s economic situation calls for and what political institutions can deliver. While some commentators have asserted that Europe is an inherently weak entity that can barely handle its own problems, she cautions against such generalizations. Bradford says those viewpoints, for instance, ignore an important, and enduring, source of the continent’s power: the global influence of the EU’s stringent regulatory standards.

Companies that want to do business with Europe’s 500 million consumers must comply with the EU’s regulations regarding issues of health, food safety, privacy, and the environment. And, as Bradford explains in an upcoming law review article, it is often cheaper and more efficient for corporations to adjust their worldwide business practices to the strictest regulations.

“That gives the EU great leverage,” says Bradford, who joined the Law School faculty this past summer. “It is often in the position to set not just rules for the EU, but for the global markets. A lot of the rules that are generated in Brussels come to shape the daily lives of companies and consumers in America and around the world.”

For another recent project, Bradford has begun a comprehensive empirical study on how liberalizing trade regulations affects enforcement of antitrust laws in more than 100 countries. Her scholarship often highlights the way domestic preferences and constraints influence nations’ behavior in the global arena. Bradford argues that every powerful nation attempts to shape international law to fit its national interests. “Countries often have their own notion of what international law entails, and how international law ought to be interpreted,” she says. Because countries’ interests often diverge, she adds, international law is more contested than generally acknowledged.

A native of Finland, Bradford credits her time living and working in EU member nations with enhancing her understanding of the dynamics that shape decision making on the world stage. As a 20-year-old studying law in Helsinki when Finland joined the European Union in 1995, Bradford says she was inspired by the promise of a common European market and open borders. She later worked as an adviser to members of both the Finnish and the European parliaments before practicing international antitrust law at Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton in Brussels.

Bradford was drawn to academia in America, she says, because of the emphasis on critical thinking and the intellectual push and pull between professor and student. During the past decade, she has built a distinguished academic career in the United States—including stints at Harvard and the University of Chicago Law School.

In addition to time spent teaching in the U.S., Bradford also serves on the board of the Finnish Innovation Fund. In 2010, she was named to the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders list.

Bradford is quick to mention that she makes every effort to impart a global legal perspective to her students, many of whom will end up advising U.S. companies that must answer to regulators half a world away. “It’s wonderful,” she says, “to follow the careers of my students and receive messages about how they’ve ended up in Brussels, or in Geneva, and to see them putting into good use what they’ve learned here.”

Kaitlin Bell Barnett has written for The Boston Globe and Parents magazine, among other publications.

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Illustration by Dean Rohrer