Advising Taiwan

Professor Raj Bhala provides WTO guidance

Raj Bhala

Raj Bhala’s work in the area of international and comparative law has taken him to both sides of disputed international borders. He’s conducted scholarship in Taiwan and mainland China, Israel and Arab countries, and Pakistan and India.

“Here we are in the American heartland, with a borderless professor who’s trying to advance cosmopolitan, borderless thinking in his teaching and research,” said Bhala, who serves as the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor at KU Law. He is a senior advisor at Dentons US LLP and writes a column for BloombergQuint, based in Mumbai, India.

In December 2018, Bhala traveled to Taiwan to advise the Taiwanese government’s Office of Trade Negotiations on policies and strategies related to the World Trade Organization (WTO). The visit included private meetings with senior officials, as well as a closed-door session for government representatives. Bhala also spoke to a public audience of 200 people in a presentation titled, “WTO Reform in Context: FTAs, National Security and Three Specific Crises – Tentative Thoughts for Taiwan.”

Bhala addressed challenges facing the WTO, proposals Taiwan could make to ensure the success of the WTO, and Taiwan’s relationship with international trade partners.

“Taiwan wants to embrace organizations like the WTO and maybe get plugged into a free trade agreement network,” Bhala said. “The overall picture is, how can Taiwan safeguard its unique position in the world trading system?”

The 2018 visit was Bhala’s second consulting trip to Taiwan – he taught a week-long course on General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade law and policy in 2014.

Bhala also traveled to Israel in March of this year to teach an intensive course in international trade law to students at Tel Aviv University who came from around the world. It was the most recent of nearly two dozen trips to the Middle East, Bhala said. He had previously traveled throughout the region, not only on trade matters, but also to develop his textbook on Islamic law, titled Understanding Islamic Law (Sharī‘a).

Working on multiple sides of trade and political borders reveals links between international trade and comparative law, Bhala said.

“The connecting theme is national security,” Bhala said. “We’ve never been in an era in which the link between trade and international security is more tightly drawn, and a lot of my scholarship highlights that link.”

Bhala recently authored the fifth edition of International Trade Law: A Comprehensive Textbook, a four-volume work about economics, politics, international relations, philosophy and religion as they relate to international trade law. His commentary on international trade has recently appeared in outlets including The Washington Post, NPR’s Marketplace and Reuters.

— By Margaret Hair

This story originally appeared in the fall 2019 issue of the KU Law magazine.