26 Jun 2017

A MILEstone in the lives of our students

The 17th Master of International Law and Economics (MILE) programme came to an official close on 23 June with a ceremony at the University of Bern attended by students and faculty members.

WTI Director of Studies Peter Van den Bossche congratulated the students in his welcome address, joking that it was a day to celebrate the fact that they had “survived the rigours and high demands of the MILE programme”. “Earlier this week I saw you in action at the moot court competition at the WTO and you made me proud,” he added.

Ambassador Marc Vanheukelen, Permanent Representative of the European Union to the WTO delivered the keynote speech on ‘Winning the Argument on Trade’, opening with a quote from Charles Dickens’s Tale of Two Cities: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…” These words date back more than 150 years but capture well the times we are living in, said Vanheukelen. Innovation is definitely part of the best of times, but the new technological revolution is producing deep anxiety in society and will continue to cost manufacturing jobs, the ambassador said.

Referring to political upheaval in the West, he said the dividing lines between left and right are vanishing and a new cultural, social and economic cleavage is opening up. An anti-trade rhetoric is now associated with US nationalism. Protectionism is poor economics but may be good politics, and it is on the rise. Trade and regulation are uneasy bed-fellows, he said. To win the argument on trade, Vanheukelen told his audience, they need to know the main views of their opponents, demonstrate they are wrong and offer remedies.

“The argument on trade is well worth winning and can be won, but for that to happen there need to be spokespersons for trade. It is my hope you will become these people,” Ambassador Vanheukelen told the graduates.

Presentation of awards

Former WTI Managing Director Thomas Cottier then presented the award for the best Master thesis written last year to Nadezhda Sporysheva for her dissertation on "Russia’s accession to the Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA): legislative conformity of procurement regime with the GPA" supervised by Professor Robert Anderson. The MILE 16 graduate responded that it was “a great honour” to receive the recognition for her work.

Next to take the floor was Dr Lee Ann Jackson who presented the very first John H. Jackson Internship Award to graduate Hiba Batool.

“My father, John H. Jackson, was a systems-thinker and throughout his career he sought connections with experts in other fields. While he excelled in his own field of expertise, he was not inhibited to try new things,” Dr Jackson told the audience. “The JJIF was established in his memory – to inspire WTI students to take risks, to stretch outside their comfort zone and to connect with people who have different ways of examining the world. My father would be delighted to see the launch of the Internship Fund this year.”

In a written response, Hiba Batool said: “The JJIF is a wonderful initiative that will enable MILE students to undertake unpaid internships in the fields of trade and investment. Although concrete exposure to real-life issues in these fields is essential to harness the academic skills acquired throughout the academic year, many MILE students cannot afford to take on unpaid work experience. With this in mind, I am extremely grateful and honoured to be the first recipient of the JJIF and wish to thank, in particular, Dr Lee Ann Jackson and the MILE faculty for providing me with this opportunity. It is my sincere hope that I will one day be an ambassador for the MILE and will pass on what I have been fortunate to receive this year, including the JJIF grant.”

The WTI directors then presented symbolic ‘MILEstones’ to all the graduates.

WTI Managing Director Joseph Francois closed the event by reminding the new graduates that they are now are part of the WTI family, and a strong network. He also encouraged them to consider acting as mentors to future students within the WTI mentorship programme.