2022 Wenger Speakers

Fifth Wenger Distinguished Lecture on International Trade

The Future of Trade: Time to Change the Template?


Ricardo Ramírez, a 1994 graduate of AUWCL’s LL.M. program and former member and Chair of the WTO Appellate Body, delivered the fifth Wenger Distinguished Lecture on International Trade. This year’s lecture, delivered on October 20, 2022, took place in conjunction with the 40th anniversary of the International Legal Studies Program. The Wenger Lecture is generously funded by the Henry E. & Consuelo S. Wenger Foundation, Inc.

In his lecture, Ricardo Ramírez argued for a new template for trade agreements. He explained how things have changed since the passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Mr. Ramírez recognized that NAFTA became the template of future Regional Trade Agreements, a template that was expanded upon in the recent negotiations that led to the passage of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). From NAFTA to USMCA we have seen an evolution of environment and trade issues from periphery to the center of trade agreements. Other changes include the regulation of digital trade, including sensitive personal data. Mr. Ramirez also discussed the long-standing failure of trade policy and trade agreements to engage with competition or anti-trust issues. Another much-discussed area is the problem of corruption and the direct incorporation of the term by the United States in its trade agreements. Finally, Mr. Ramirez discussed the use of the “national security” exception that until now had been sparingly invoked by countries to justify trade restrictions.  Finally, as a former member of the WTO Appellate Body, he discussed the need for a new dispute settlement mechanism as it does not seem that WTO members have sufficient political will to restore the appellate mechanism of the WTO.

Mr. Ramírez summarized the situation of international trade law as a schizophrenic transition, because on the one hand there is a need for modernization of the rules, while at the same time many fundamental issues remain the same as in 1947 or 1995, such as the challenges to regulate tariffs, national treatment, dumping, subsidies, customs valuation, rules of origin and other traditional trade issues.

Mr. Ramírez concluded his remarks by highlighting the role AUWCL played in his future and how the AUWCL community empowered him to become a trade lawyer.

In her remarks, AUWCL alum Stacy Ettinger (J.D.’93) reaffirmed the statements made by Ricardo Ramírez about the uncertainties that exist in the world of international trade law, particularly as regards the application of the large international trade agreements. She emphasized on the lack of cooperation in the sphere of trade dispute settlement and lack of political will to address it. Ms. Ettinger agreed with Mr. Ramírez that the dispute settlement mechanism (with all its flaws) was very important to the WTO, and that its declining importance is a matter of concern and reflects the diminishing credibility of the WTO.

Watch the entire Lecture here.