Thursday, March 26, 2009
With the new Obama Administration in office, including the confirmation of the new US Trade Representative, Ron Kirk, as well as the nomination of Yale Dean Harold Koh to head the Office of Legal Advisor, there has been lots of talk at ASIL about the future of international law in the Obama Administration.
On the trade front, some of hot issues appear to be pressure to focus on more and better enforcement of trade laws, the relationship between trade and other issues such as labor, energy and the environment, and the possible renegotiation of NAFTA. The US trade relationship with China is on the front burner, particularly with respect to allegations of Chinese manipulation of its currency and negotiation of a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) between the US and China. There appears to be some interest in modifying trade preference programs that benefit developing countries to ensure that the benefits go to the countries who most need it. Of the three bilateral free trade agreements (FTAs) currently pending, the consensus seems to be that the US-Panama FTA would be most likely to move forward the fastest, possibly followed by the FTA with Columbia and then possibly South Korea, although there seemed to be some doubts as to the viability of the agreement with South Korea in particular at the present time.
More broadly, the Obama Administration is still struggling with what to do with the detainees at Guantanamo Bay in light of Obama's commitment to close that facility by end of the year. Other major international law issues include the possible ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty and the future relationship between the U.S. and the International Criminal Court.