Skip to main content

Professor Claire Wright Going to Geneva as a WTO Scholar

May 2, 2012

Prof Wright Geneva

Thomas Jefferson School of Law Professor Claire Wright has been appointed a World Trade Organization (WTO) Scholar, which is a very prestigious honor.  She will be leaving for Geneva, Switzerland on May 7 and return to San Diego in early August.

During her time at the WTO, Professor Wright will be working on two research projects, both of which are designed to make the WTO rules more advantageous for developing nations.  According to the WTO, it “is a place where member governments try to sort out the trade problems they face with each other.” However, the WTO also is a complicated web of trade interactions, regulations and sanctions between member nations, where the wealthier countries have a distinct advantage over the poorer countries in trade disputes. 

Upon her return to TJSL, Professor Wright plans to launch an institute dedicated to assisting the developing countries on trade law issues.  She hopes to engage students (for course or pro bono credit) to investigate potential trade violations against developing countries and post their findings on a website accessible to all.  With this information, the private industries in the developing countries could pressure their governments to pursue trade dispute cases in the WTO and at the same time these governments could better represent their citizens’ interests in the WTO.  She believes this could be the first of several “Wiki Law” projects at TJSL. 

In her first project at the WTO, Professor Wright will interview representatives of the developing countries to discover why these countries rarely take advantage of the WTO trade dispute system and devise methods of increasing their participation in the dispute system.  She’ll also be working with various groups, including the Legal Affairs Division of the WTO Secretariat, that provide training services to representatives of the developing countries, and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law, which offers pro bono representation of developing countries in WTO cases. 

Professor Wright’s second project at the WTO concerns the fact that, when a developing country prevails in a trade dispute case against a developed country, the developing country may be unable to enforce its judgment.  The developing country’s threat to close its market to the developed country’s goods and services is illusory when companies in the developed country don’t sell many goods or services in the developing country, as is often the case.  In light of this flaw in the WTO enforcement mechanism, Professor Wright, in her forthcoming article “Trading Trade Sanctions,” proposes that the WTO laws be amended so that the prevailing party in a trade dispute case can sell its “right to retaliate against the losing party” to any other WTO member.  At the WTO, she’ll be working with the Economics Division of the WTO Secretariat regarding the economic ramifications of this proposal. 

Professor Claire Wright is a sought-after expert on the legal rules and practices of the WTO, and is a member of a committee of the American Law Institute which publishes commentaries on all of the WTO Appellate Body cases.  While in private practice at the prominent international law firm of Baker & McKenzie, she advised a number of countries and companies regarding WTO issues.  She has also taught WTO law at Stanford Law School and the Graduate School of International Relations and Pacific Studies at the University of California, San Diego.

On behalf of everyone at TJSL, congratulations to Professor Wright!