18 Dec 2013

“COFIT was a great discovery"

COFIT is a programme that allows you a lot of flexibility

The World Trade Institute has a new researcher in the form of Ilaria Espa who has recently joined the Institute after completing a PhD in International Law and Economics in Milan. Ilaria will spend the next two years at the WTI on the COFIT fellowship programme.

Partly funded by the EU, the COFIT programme offers researchers from eligible countries academic freedom and opportunities for career development as well as financial security. COFIT was set up by the WTI and NCCR Trade Development in 2011 under the EU COFUND umbrella. Why did you choose WTI? I graduated from Bocconi University in Milan last May. My PhD was in International Law and Economics and my dissertation dealt with international trade and in particular World Trade Organization (WTO) law. That’s why WTI was a perfect match for me. What are you going to be working on? I have a real privilege because I’ll be integrated into the NCCR work, in particular WP5 on Trade and Climate Change run by Professor Thomas Cottier. This will give me the opportunity to be part of a network of more experienced researchers who share lots of research interests with me. At the same time COFIT is a programme that allows you a lot of flexibility and I will work independently on my own research interests. But I also have to find a way to fit them into the work package. So this will give me the chance to both create synergies and work jointly with other participants of the clusters, and also work on my own articles and papers. What is your specific area? I’m going to be integrated into the cluster on Energy, Trade and Climate change, and in particular I’m going to be focusing on a project on energy export restrictions, mainly within the WTO law. How did you first hear about COFIT? It was actually a great discovery for me because I heard about the COFIT programme when I was about to defend my PhD dissertation. I was already concerned about my future and whether I would have a real chance to pursue a research career. I had known WTI for a very long time because of course it’s one of the main points of reference for people who deal with the WTO. At the same time I knew about the prestige of the European funding programmes, so it was the perfect combination. The programme offers a lot of freedom, as you mentioned, which must make it attractive… Yes. I think it’s also a good starting point because here there are a lot of people who work within the international trade regulation field but at the same time there are lawyers and economists and also political scientists - there’s a truly interdisciplinary framework. So it’s also easy, I think, to find new ideas to develop through the exchange with people from different backgrounds but with the same main interest. You have new food for thought and grow in terms of research. At the same time there’s a good network, so there’s going to be the chance to attend conferences and seminars and to interact with high-level academics and practitioners. You’re independent within a framework that also supports you then? Exactly. It’s a chance to work towards my research objectives but at the same time to get feedback on what I’m pursuing, so whether I’m going in the right direction and, if not, where I can improve my work and develop. What are your career goals after the two years are up? My goal is to develop in the academic sphere. I think this could be a good way to hopefully speed the process up a bit. But I’m aware that this is just the first step, so I just hope to make the most of it because the conditions are right for me to grow and develop my career. I’m very positive and I’m very excited to be at WTI!