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No borders: We’re all in it together

Cover Story

Cite as: (2009) 83(02) LIJ, p. 28


By Laura Helm

In recent years, the prominence of international law has grown as issues such as climate change, terrorism and the internet have necessitated a global response to problems which transcend state borders.

Current global economic conditions provide an untimely reminder for Victorian lawyers about the increasing interdependence of world economies and the need to look beyond domestic law for opportunities and remedies.

The LIV is working with its International Law Section, in conjunction with the Law Council of Australia (LCA), to promote international law and business opportunities for Victorian lawyers. To this end, the LIV has developed an International Strategy which recognises the increasing importance of international law and legal practice and makes a commitment to pursue these objectives. The LIV regularly makes submissions to and engages in meetings with representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

This Special Issue of the LIJ shows that international law should no longer be seen as the domain of lawyers in distant places. It is real and relevant to lawyers and their clients in Victoria. It is therefore essential that lawyers consider the implications of international law on their areas of practice.

Although international trade law does not directly create rights or obligations for private business, its effect on government regulation can have a significant impact on the opportunities and remedies available to business. In the first article, Robert Kovacs provides an overview of competition issues in international trade law, explaining the principles which underpin the World Trade Organization (WTO) and how international trade law can affect restrictive trade practices of businesses and monopolies.

The reported demise of the Doha round of negotiations of the WTO has been the cause of significant interest and concern recently in international trade circles. In the second article, Andrew Hudson analyses the current international trade environment and Australia’s free trade agenda and summarises the consequences for Victorian legal practitioners. The article also outlines the services agenda, including the role of the LIV and LCA in pressing to improve the market for legal services, both here and overseas.

In contrast to bilateral, regional and multi-lateral free trade agreements, bilateral investment treaties (BITs) are an increasingly popular source of substantive rights for foreign investors. In the third article, Beth Cubitt and James Clark provide an outline of BITs and the main rights they confer and canvass some of the difficulties associated with asserting those rights.

Movement of information across borders for discovery purposes in litigation gives rise to logistical and practical challenges. Recent developments in other jurisdictions highlight the additional legal complexities arising under foreign privacy laws. Derek Begg and Sandra Potter explore these complexities and outline strategies for overcoming them in their article.

Finally, Rachel Ball and Melanie Schleiger of the Human Rights Law Resource Centre urge us to “think global act local” as they review the application of international human rights law in the domestic context. They show that international human rights law is a legal tool like any other that can be used to promote the interests of clients, particularly those who are marginalised or disadvantaged or whose rights are not fully recognised in the domestic legal regime.

The LIV thanks the authors for contributing to this Special Issue and hopes that you are encouraged to think global. I would also like to thank LIV International Law Section chair Andrew Hudson for his enormous contribution and ongoing commitment to the LIV as it pursues its International Strategy. The International Law Section Executive Committee welcomes expressions of interest from new members interested in international legal issues. Please contact me at lhelm@liv.asn.au or ph 9607 9380.

Laura Helm
LIV International Law Section policy adviser

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