The Role of Lawyers in the WTO

By Bacchus, James | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, October 2001 | Go to article overview

The Role of Lawyers in the WTO


Bacchus, James, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


I want to begin by offering my regrets for the fact that I am going to disappear as soon as I finish here this morning. I have to go back to Geneva this weekend. There is an appeal pending in a dispute involving several countries. The defendant in the case is a small country called the United States of America. We will see how they do.

And I want to acknowledge a few old friends.

Certainly I want to acknowledge Peter Ehrenraft. He may or may not recall this, but we first met when he was already a very distinguished member of the bar and I was a young lawyer right out of school, working at USTR and reading the GATT, and trying to figure out what it was all about. I looked a lot like some of you out there who will soon be in your first year out of law school.

I hope that you will give my regards to the Dean, who is traveling today, looking for a college for his son. I am glad to be here also with Jon Charney, truly one of the great international law scholars in the entire world. And also, it was good this morning to be with my old friend and Vanderbilt classmate, Bob Thompson, who has just returned to Vanderbilt after thirty years, joining the law faculty. It was a homecoming for him, and as he knows, this is a homecoming for me.

I was born three blocks from here. Indeed, my family has had an even much longer affiliation with Nashville. The Loews Vanderbilt Plaza Hotel is on the site of what used to be a gas station where my grandfather pumped gas in the 1920s, and, in the late 1940s, my mother used to walk this site before the law school was built on her way from nursing school to classes at what was then a separate Peabody College.

And, most important to me, this is my alma mater. Vanderbilt had the wisdom and the foresight and the generosity to pay every penny of my undergraduate education. So, I am happy to return to Vanderbilt at any time and try to repay the favor. I also give a little money from time to time when I have it. Among other things, I am paying tuition right now for my son Joe, who is a sophomore here at Vanderbilt. I have promised not to say whether he is in the audience right now.

Vanderbilt also, you should know, has a long history of involvement, as does Middle Tennessee, in promoting the growth of trade. Nashville was put here in the first place because it is on a river that leads down toward the Mississippi and out into the rest of the world. This is probably what made Cordell Hull a free trader. It is what inspired one of his proteges, Albert Gore, Sr., to advocate free trade. And they inspired me along the way, along with a professor of history here named Charles Delzell, who first taught me about the Smoot-Hawley tariff years ago. Probably he taught Professor Thompson as well when we were classmates together. He also taught another young man from Nashville--two years older than I am, I like to remind him--about trade. His name is Mickey Kantor. And it was Mickey Kantor who got me into the WTO business.

I had decided to leave the Congress and give up politics and go straight. And Mickey had this notion that I could stay involved even if I was not up on the Hill. His initial idea was that I consider something up in Washington, other than "Congressing," and I explained to Mickey that the idea was to get out of Washington. So he said: "What about Geneva?"

They were forming this new outfit called the World Trade Organization and they were creating something called the Appellate Body, and he and others wanted to know whether I would be willing to serve. Mickey said at the time that what excited him about the prospect of my going to the WTO and serving as one of the founding members of the Appellate Body was the fact that I would be "present at the creation." As you know, this was not an original phrase with Mickey, and it is certainly not with me. It was Dean Acheson who talked about being present at the creation when he and others developed the United States containment policy that led to the ultimate victory in the Cold War. …

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