Neeraj R.S. ’18 LL.M.
2017 – 2018 Jagdish Bhagwati Fellow
As a humanities student in secondary school in India, Neeraj R.S. ’18 LL.M. became interested in how the law and legal institutions could be used to achieve social and economic justice.
As a student at Gujarat National Law University in India, he studied international trade law with a professor who was “able to highlight the remarkable features of the World Trade Organization–led multilateral trading regime and how its consensus-based governance structure allows the redistribution of gains arising from international trade,” he said. “As a trade lawyer, the most important question is how can you promote inclusive economic development through trade liberalization?”
To find out, in 2014, Neeraj joined a think tank, Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS International) in Jaipur, where he was introduced to the emerging changes in the landscape of global trade heralded by mega-regional trade agreements. After about a year, he left the organization to take a position at the Centre for WTO Studies, which was established by India’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
“I wanted to constructively influence India’s multilateral trade policy and directly contribute to the shaping of inter-governmental treaties,” he said.
At the organization, Neeraj was part of a team drafting negotiating strategies for India in the still-developing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. He also helped develop India’s position on fisheries subsidies and e-commerce at the WTO.
As the Jagdish Bhagwati Fellow for 2017–2018, Neeraj is pursuing his LL.M. degree at Columbia Law School with the support of the Indian government, which annually underwrites the fellowship for up to three students who want to study international trade law, WTO law, and related topics. The fellowship is named after Columbia University Professor Jagdish Bhagwati, a world-renowned economist and senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Neeraj had the chance to meet Bhagwati, whose work he has previously studied, early in the semester—an encounter he referred to as “an invaluable experience.”
At Columbia Law School, Neeraj wants to focus on international trade and investment law and is taking up courses in these areas. He was also named managing editor of the Columbia Journal of European Law, one of the few legal publications in the U.S. dedicated exclusively to the subject.
Neeraj said that now is an especially important time to be studying international trade, as anti-globalization sentiment, and its political consequences, are growing in the U.S. and Europe.
“I’m very interested in understanding these developments,” he said. “I see this as a paradigm shift and how the WTO will respond to these developments will be critical to preserving the harmony of the global economy.”