Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Welcome to International Trade Law Prof Blog

If you’re not an international trade specialist, you’ve come to the right place.

As you’ve probably noticed, international trade law is a different game in 2017.

For at least a generation, the accepted wisdom in legal circles has been that trade liberalization is a Good Thing. Tariffs are bad, investment is good, and the rising tide will raise all boats if states get out of the way. All the Big Economies got that way by liberalizing and the Small Economies need to follow suit if they want to become Big Economies. National economies will reallocate resources to their comparative advantage and overall gains will be sufficient to compensate the losers in the Reallocation Roulette.

Then Britain voted for Brexit. Donald Trump was elected President of the United States. Marine Le Pen gained political momentum in France. And just like that, a half-century of trade liberalization orthodoxy was back on the table.

Feeling Out the Fault Lines in Trade Law and Policy

Trump’s changes and pledges of change would throw open the barn doors on decades of U.S. trade policy. As a candidate and as President-Elect, Trump criticized automakers for moving manufacturing jobs to Mexico and threatened border taxes. Reading Trump’s tweets, Ford Motor Company decided to withdraw plans for a $1.6 billion investment in Mexico and instead invest $700 million in a U.S. plant.

In his first weeks in office, Trump has withdrawn the United States signature from the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade deal of unprecedented size and scope negotiated by the Obama Administration. He called it a bad deal for American workers. He moved quickly (if not smoothly) to schedule meetings with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement. Trump’s Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross, told the Senate Commerce Committee that the Administration planned to level the trade playing field with China, a country that Trump in December said he would name as a trade manipulator.

What does this mean for lawyers and law professors – especially those who are not trade specialists?

A Trade Law Blog for Non-Trade Specialists

Right now, no one can predict the effects of the Trump Administration’s changes and proposed changes to U.S. trade policy, or the effect of Brexit on trade in Europe and the around the world. What is certain is that lawyers and professors who have not specialized in trade law will be fielding questions from clients and students about the effects of these changes on their businesses or practice areas.

How would increased Chinese influence over trade in the Pacific Rim impact human rights in the region? How would a trade war with China alter global enforcement of intellectual property protections? How would changes to NAFTA affect the U.S. food system or immigration law enforcement? Can the Trump Administration legally make Mexico pay for a border wall? And if it’s not legal, could anyone stop him from doing it?

We aim to be a source of information, perspective, and discussion for those of you in the legal community who are thinking more about trade law than you ever did (or perhaps ever cared to) before. Our goal is to spark conversation about how the current political controversy over trade affects many areas of the law.

The editors of this blog come to the study of international trade law from a variety of doctrinal areas: environmental, intellectual property, agricultural, immigration, and administrative law, as well as more traditional international economic law perspectives. We are watching to see how trade law and policy will affect our doctrinal areas of interest and how they will affect yours.

Our goal is not to provide updates on every new development in trade law. That kind of information is already available elsewhere (and if you really get excited about every new anti-dumping investigation you are probably already reading those sources). We will, however, share breaking news when we think it has broader relevance within the legal profession, and will comment on what we think to be its implications.

Nor is our goal to provide detailed, trade-wonky analysis on every issue before the ITC, CIT, or WTO (you’re welcome). But we will go into relevant legal details necessary to understand the larger implications of important law and policy shifts. Want to know if Trump can charge a 20% tax on Mexican imports without violating Most Favored Nation? Want to know what happens under domestic law if he withdraws from NAFTA? So do we.

Much is unknown in this new political landscape, and the ripple effects of trade law and policy on other legal areas can only be monitored in real time. This potential reconfiguration may leave new winners and new losers, and emotions may run high. We hope to offer a forum for thoughtful, informed, and lively discussion about the fault lines in international trade and investment law and policy in 2017 and beyond. Thanks for participating.

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