Philippe De Baere
Office:
Glaverbel Building
Chaussée de la Hulpe 166 Terhulpsesteenweg
B-1170
City:
Brussels
Country:
Belgium
Tel:
+32 2 647 73 50
Fax:
+32 2 640 64 99

Questions and Answers:

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Philippe De Baere is a leading lawyer in the field of EU and WTO trade law as well as EU customs law and export controls. He has represented numerous clients before the European Commission, the Court of Justice of the European Union, WTO Panels and the WTO Appellate Body. In recent years, he has been advising a number of sovereign clients during negotiations of free trade agreements.

WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO SPECIALISE IN TRADE AND CUSTOMS WORK?

Its varied nature. Each case involves a new combination of legal, economic and political elements. Also, trade work brings you into contact with very diverse clients, products and countries.

TO WHAT EXTENT HAS THE SCOPE OF YOUR PRACTICE EVOLVED OVER TIME?

It has become much wider and deeper in scope. Initially, our trade practice dealt almost exclusively with European trade defence investigations against Japanese exporters.  Now, we still successfully handle trade defence cases, but WTO dispute settlement, the negotiation and interpretation of trade agreements, arbitration as well as disputes involving public international law have become an integral part of our practice.

YOU HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN MAJOR PROCEEDINGS BEFORE THE EUROPEAN AND WTO COURTS. WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS THE KEY TO YOUR SUCCESS?

I have always been able to rely on an excellent team. The complexity of large trade disputes makes it impossible for a single practitioner to master all aspects.

LOOKING BACK OVER YOUR PRACTICE, WHAT HAS BEEN THE MOST MEMORABLE CASE OF YOUR CAREER SO FAR?

I find cases where I was able to have a systemic impact the most satisfying. For instance, as a result of the findings of the WTO Appellate Body in EC-Fasteners, the European Union had to amend its Basic Anti-Dumping Regulation on a number of essential points.

YOUR CUSTOMS WORK FOCUSES GREATLY ON TECHNOLOGY PRODUCTS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS INDUSTRY THAT INTERESTS YOU?

The challenges caused by rapid technological change. The legal framework still assumes that certain physical features of a product correspond to specific functions. In reality, many new products have become multifunctional “black boxes”. How to make an outdated legal framework fit this new reality can be extremely interesting.

ARE THERE ANY PARTICULAR CHALLENGES CURRENTLY BEING FACED BY TRADE AND CUSTOMS PRACTITIONERS IN EUROPE?

Where to begin? Brexit will require trade and customs practitioners to come up with very innovative solutions to minimise disruption. The United States is increasingly becoming a disruptive factor in the multilateral trading system and the WTO system may have to find ways to accommodate certain criticism levelled at it by the new administration. China seems ready to fill part of the vacuum left by the United States, but many countries have doubts about its willingness to play by the rules. Will it be more beneficial to engage with China or should we try to contain Chinese trading and investment capacity?

HOW DO YOU SEE THE PRACTICE AREA DEVELOPING OVER THE COMING YEARS?

I expect that international dispute resolution will start playing a much larger role.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO LAWYERS WHO HOPE TO ONE DAY BE IN YOUR POSITION?

Be flexible. Change is inevitable. You should be prepared to reinvent your practice and not shy away from exploring new ground.

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