International Trade and Investment Law: A career beyond boundaries

  • Ekta Kashyap
  • Published 05/10/2023
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International Trade and Investment Law: A career beyond boundaries

Lawyers with expertise in International Trade and Investment Law continue to boost the global economy by ensuring the free movement of goods and services across as many borders as possible, while respecting the laws and regulations

The world’s smallest economy, Tuvalu, has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $42 million; the world’s largest economy, the United States of America, has a GDP of $20 trillion (as of 2019), which is about 4,76,190 times that of Tuvalu’s economy. If picturing this comparison is difficult, imagine how complex it would be to carry out trade and investment between countries with massive disparities in currency, government policies, markets, the judicial system, and law.

How, then, is the global economy able to function smoothly? There are specific rules and regulations that manage trade and investment between different countries. These sets of legal guidelines fall under the realm of International Trade and Investment Law (ITIL).

ITIL is based on the theories of economic liberalism, evolving in Europe and later in the United States from 18th century onwards. It is a sum of legal rules of international legislations, regulating relations and global trade.

Economic interdependence and world peace

The current framework of rules that govern transnational transactions was derived from the medieval era commercial laws called the Lex Mercatoria and Lex Maritima, i.e., the law for merchants on land and the law for merchants on the sea, respectively. It was only in 1944 that the modern epoch of free trade, as we know it today, began. That was a dark phase in the human civilisation, with scars of the first World War still afresh in the minds of those who had witnessed it, the consequences of the Great Depression still in play, and the havoc created by the then-ongoing World War II.

All that the world wanted was peace. Scholars realised that there was one way of necessitating world peace. It was through economic interdependence, where nation states would be dependent on each other for their supply chains. This would reduce the probability of conflict between states.

Delegates from 44 allied nations thus gathered at New Hampshire, United States, and signed the Bretton Woods Agreement, while the second World War was still raging. This established a new international monetary system, replacing the gold standard with the U.S. dollar as the global currency.

WTO: The backbone of ITIL

In 1947, modern trade laws extending beyond bilateral treaties began with the negotiation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GAAT) – a multilateral legal arrangement between several countries, whose overall purpose was to promote international trade by reducing or eliminating trade barriers such as tariffs or quotas.

GAAT was, however, meant to be a temporary fix to trade issues and was soon replaced by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in 1995 to create an equal field for all countries in trade. The formation of the WTO is considered as the most significant development in ITIL.

Ever-increasing scope for lawyers with ITIL specialisation

Since its inception, the WTO has witnessed extraordinary and enormous power trade agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) and thousands of investment treaties.

As more and more countries become a member of the WTO, the ITIL branch of law is rising on the radar of the most sought-after specialisations. Lawyers with expertise in ITIL continue to enhance the global economy by ensuring the free movement of goods and services across as many borders as possible while respecting the laws and regulations. They facilitate dispute resolution when a party violates an agreement or a commitment that it has made regarding an international trade or investment treaty. The WTO, with one of the most active international dispute settlement mechanisms in the world, has resolved hundreds of such disputes so far.

Apart from a lucrative run in international organisations, lawyers with ITIL specialisation can build a strong career under their respective government in the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, institutions such as the Centre for Trade and Investment Law (CTIL), the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), as well as private multinational firms.

The UPES edge

UPES School of Law is the place where students are prepared for rewarding careers through exceptional pedagogy, carefully-crafted curriculum and unique instructional methods modelled after global trends.

UPES is the first Indian university to partner with The University of Law based in the United Kingdom. It offers BBA LL.B. (Hons.) with specialisation in International Trade and Investment Law.

The university continually engages with law professionals to stay abreast of comprehensive knowledge and legal practices. UPES’ state-of-the-art infrastructure and an in-house moot court for experiential learning create an academically-stimulating environment and a collaborative learning ecosystem that sharpens the understanding of legal institutions and helps the students to emerge as first-rate lawyers.

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Ekta Kashyap

The writer is a part of the UPES editorial team

  • International Trade and Investment Law
  • upes school of law

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