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Sixth Annual WTO Conference

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law, in association with the Institute of International Economic Law (IIEL) at Georgetown University Law Center, hosted the Sixth Annual WTO Conference, firmly established as the most important annual event for international scholarship and policy discussion in the field, bringing together lawyers, diplomats, government officials, academics and students from all over the world. Sidley Austin LLP provided the sponsorship for the event. The Conference Chairs were Sir Francis Jacobs, Professor at King's College London and Professor John H Jackson, Director of the IIEL.

As in previous years, the two-day Conference focused on four selected issues in the evolving jurisprudence of the WTO dispute settlement system (Day 1) as well as around three broader themes that are shaping the current and future agenda of the world trading system (Day 2).

On the first day, panels looked at WTO jurisprudence dealing with (1) Members' discretionary measures, omissions and attribution to governments of private parties' conduct; (2) the evolving application of General Exceptions to WTO obligations, focusing in particular on recent cases such as Soft Drinks, Internet Gambling and Dominican Republic Cigarettes; (3) the concepts of 'judicial economy' and 'completing the analysis' as well as over-reaching and under-reaching by WTO dispute settlement bodies; and (4) the challenges that a panel faces in interpreting WTO Members' schedules of concessions.

On the second day, panels looked at (1) the issue of regulatory convergence and whether the WTO is or will play a role in this regard; (2) the linkages between trade and investment disputes and the potential conflicts or complementarity in applying similar principles that may be found in WTO Agreements and international investment instruments; and (3) a few key issues surrounding the Doha Development Round including how to achieve the development objectives and how to ensure proper implementation of a future agreement.

A superb ensemble of more than 30 established scholars and recent recruits to the discipline tackled each topic in great details generating ample discussion with the audience. The presentations and ensuing discussions were recorded and will appear later this year, along with the transcripts of last year's WTO Conference in a BIICL publication. This year's Conference Programme Directors were: Professor Jane Bradley, Georgetown University Law Center, Professor Piet Eeckhout, King's College, University of London, Dr Federico Ortino and Professor Gillian Triggs, Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.

As before, a Conference Dinner was held at Gray's Inn on the evening of Tuesday 23 May as well as a GATS and Financial Services Seminar which took place the day before the WTO Conference at the British Institute (22 May) with panels on 'cross-border trade in banking and financial services', 'trade in financial services and developing countries', 'domestic regulation and Article VI GATS' and 'GATS and dispute settlement practice'.

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