19 May 2011

African IEL Network Conference, 5-6 May 2011, Johannesburg

Roberto Echandi and Charlotte Sieber-Gasser attended the first African IEL Network Conference in Johannesburg, hosted and organised by the Mandela Institute, University of Witwatersrand.

The launching Conference of the African network for research in international trade law focused on Africa’s relation with the Global Economy. Participants came mainly from the African continent with a few researchers from Europe, the Middle-East and the Americas. Presentations were outstanding and followed by vivid discussions. In this context, Roberto Echandi presented an analysis of the impact of the African Bilateral Investment Treaties (BIT’s) on investment disputes, observing that there is no correlation between the number of disputes and the number of BIT’s, and that African countries are not necessarily lagging behind the rest of the world in implementing legal instruments for the protection of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Charlotte Sieber-Gasser, on the other hand, presented the legal analysis of the tied-aid agreements that China has established in a number of sub-Saharan countries. She pointed out that tied aid is more or less outside of legal regulation and that – although partially debatable – the Chinese way of tying aid is a smart way of entering new markets while at the same time satisfying the thirst for oil back home. What all researchers had in common was the will to explore the potential of trade law in contributing to closing the gap of wealth between the African countries and the rest of the world. However, as there might not be any single answer to that question, the new network will certainly not run out of tasks in the nearer future!