Is the United States in its trade relationship with various foreign countries around the world taken for a ride?
That's one stark question that was discussed at the symposium organized and hosted by the International Law Society at William & Mary School of Law, in conjunction with other student organizations.
Polina Zvyagina-Taber, Class of 2013, president of the International Law Society, and Erica Woebse, Class 2014, a member of the ILS Board, were instrumental in organizing the symposium.
"We want the William & Mary students to meet the lawyers that are dealing daily with international legal issues and to be able to start thinking about new ways of solving issues and the practical uses of international law background," said Zvyagina-Taber.
The symposium entitled, "Emerging Issues in International Trade; The Interface Between Globalization, Trade, and Intellectual Property," analyzed issues such as how could supranational economic entities mitigate the effect of the current global recession.
"The United States is the beneficiary of a variety of multilateral trade relationships, including with the European Union, but in the current economic climate, some question whether this openness to the international economy is in America's economic interest," states a press release issued by the organizers of the symposium.
International trade, the exchange of goods and capital has been part of international relationships through human history. Once, it was practiced on trade routes such as the Silk Road, but today the import of labor-intensive goods plays a large role in international trade. For example, instead of importing Chinese labor, the United States imports goods that were produced by cheap Chinese labor in their own country.
According to the W & M Law Society press release, "As a member of the World Trade Organization, the U. S. is obliged to provide baseline legal protection to imports, intellectual property rights and even some investments from other countries." But it seems that the European Union in an effort to isolate its members from fiscal crises is on a path that may reverse progress in building the rule of law with the rest of the world.
The symposium featuring well known experts examined various international legal issues through the prism of close economic relationship between the United States, the European Union, China and South Korea.
"We wanted to explore how the European Union's policy and its difficulties to stabilize the Euro, would affect the economic relationship with the United States. We have looked at new efforts to expand the U.S.-EU economic, business and legal relationship, including possibility through a Free Trade Agreement, as well as how the rise of other world economic powers may impact the U.S economy."
The symposium intended to tackle other issues, too. It looked at the multilateral agreements that the U.S. had formed with China and South Korea and looked at the differences with previous agreements. It analyzed the legal and political difficulties of opening to the Asian market. Another important issue discussed was the connectivity of trade agreements with protecting intellectual property rights.
"We had examined the well choreographed dance of negotiations and diplomacy on an international open market," says the Law Society's statement.
Zvyagina-Taber added: "We have a duty to ourselves and each other to learn about the practice of law and the only way doing this is by meeting with lawyers who practice and getting their opinions about their field of practice."
The issues considered at the symposium may sound theoretical, but in fact affects the well being of every one of us in this country.
Frank Shatz lives in Williamsburg, Va. and Lake Placid. His column was reprinted with permission from The Virginia Gazette.