> Roberto Azevêdo’s speeches


Remarks by DG Azevêdo

Ladies and gentlemen,

I am very pleased to join this panel today and to pay tribute to two of the most distinguished personalities in international economic relations and GATT and WTO law:

  • Professor John Jackson; and
  • Ambassador Julio Lacarte Muró.

Though they had rather different career tracks — Julio in diplomacy and John primarily in academia — they each contributed, in very profound ways, to the development of the multilateral trading system.

Through their invaluable contributions, their names have become synonymous with the field that they helped to create throughout their working lives.

I am sure they will be remembered with great respect and gratitude by all of us in the international trade community.

Now, I do not want to pre-empt what I’m sure will be an interesting and thoughtful panel. I would like, however, to briefly highlight some of the outstanding achievements of these two men. I’ll begin with Ambassador Lacarte.

Julio’s life story is practically inseparable from the history of the GATT and the WTO.

As a young diplomat, he attended the historic Havana conference in 1946 — where it all began. And, almost half a century later, he became the first ever chairman of the Appellate Body. I think this gives Julio a unique place in the history of global trade cooperation.

We are very fortunate that Julio gave us his original copy of the Havana Charter signed by all states representatives at the time.

This includes ministers from:

  • countries which no longer exist in the same form, such as Cisjordan (or Transjordan), or
  • countries which subsequently left the GATT, such as Syria, as well as
  • others that may still one day join the WTO — such as Iran. 

This historical artefact will be put on view at the WTO library for you all to appreciate.

I had the honour to know Julio personally. He was a remarkable man, diplomat, and adjudicator.

Julio’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the GATT and later of the WTO agreements was as formidable as his skills of negotiation and leadership.

As chair of the Institutional and Dispute Settlement negotiating groups during the Uruguay Round, Julio played a decisive role in the drafting and finalization of both the WTO Agreement and the Dispute Settlement Understanding.

He was also a teacher and writer, making a huge contribution to the dissemination of information about the international trading system and its rules and procedures. Moreover, Julio contributed in a very concrete way to the development of WTO jurisprudence.

As the first chairperson of the Appellate Body, he helped set the tone of the institution, planting the seeds of a dispute settlement system which now enjoys tremendous confidence among WTO members as a fair, effective and efficient mechanism to solve trade problems.

Even today, those first decisions which Julio oversaw remain a source of key principles that continue to influence the resolution of trade disputes.  

In fact, his influence on the shape and character of WTO law are very much present in this building. A conference room, “Sala Julio Lacarte”, has been named in his honour. And his name and signature are displayed on the WTO’s "wall of fame" — which is now situated just outside Room W, in the lobby of the main building.

This is where we showcase the signatures of some of the most distinguished people in the story of global trade. And right next to Julio’s name on that wall is the name of Professor John Jackson.

Indeed, I think John’s influence on the development of the multilateral trading system was as profound as Julio’s. Whereas Julio was like a builder of the GATT and the WTO, John was more like one of their architects.

Over a long and productive academic career, John authored innumerable books, papers, and articles about the international trading system — many of which remain classics in their field.

Today, WTO law appears on most law school curricula. But John was a pioneer. He was one of the first legal academics to delve into the world of international economic law. When he began to study the GATT, international trade law was largely bypassed by most international lawyers.

John had the visionary sense that this field was an essential part of international law, and that it deserved to be taught and studied with the same seriousness as the law of the sea or the laws of war.

As such, students of international economic law have John to thank for bringing trade law out of the GATT archives and into the very centre of international law study and practice.

John’s academic achievements are many. His books on GATT/WTO law include:

  • World Trade and the Law of the GATT, which has long been considered the “bible” of GATT studies, and
  • Legal Problems of International Economic Relations, one of the first casebooks on international trade law.

In addition, he founded the Journal of International Economic Law, and served on the editorial boards of many other academic journals.

He was also one of the founders of the BIICL1 WTO Law Conference which brings us here together today.

I worked closely with Professor Jackson on several occasions. And we shared a unique experience. We served as adjudicators on the same WTO dispute settlement panel: ’Thailand — H-Beams’, in 1999/2000. More than that, it was the first time on a panel for both of us. And John was the Chair.

It struck me that while I was almost overwhelmed by the myriad of arguments and claims before us, John was quite at home. He was able to neatly break down the case into several sections, and organised the work and the report in a perfectly logical sequence leading to the relevant findings. I knew, right then and there, that I had the privilege to work with a man of exceptional abilities. 

Together with Julio, he is sorely missed.

In these brief remarks, I have highlighted only certain aspects of the lives of these two remarkable men. But I am sure you will hear much more about them over the course of this tribute panel.

It promises to be an interesting discussion.

And on this occasion, I am delighted that we are joined by the participants of the ELSA Moot Court Competition, who are in Geneva this week for their final round.

I am pleased to be the Patron of this competition — and so I’d like to extend a special welcome to all of the participants.

I think it is especially appropriate to have this young generation of WTO experts at this session, which commemorates two of the founding fathers of the WTO and international trade law.

The legacy of both John and Julio lives on everyday in our work at the WTO. And seeing the next generation represented with us this afternoon shows us that this will remain the case for many years to come.

So I wish everybody — young and less young — but all friends of law — a very rich exchange today.

Thank you.

1. British Institute of International and Comparative law (BIICL) back to text
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