“One of the critical existing challenges in the WTO Trade Remedial investigations is the existence of unchecked administrative discretion of investigating authorities due to legislative shortcomings and procedural inconsistencies that impact international trade”- Dr. Amit Randev, International Trade Lawyer and Policy Consultant

This Interview has been published by Pragya Chandni and The SuperLawyer Team

Could you please share with us what initially drew you to pursue a career in law, particularly in the specialized field of international trade law?

Frankly speaking, I was an above average student during my school days but was really drawn towards sports and extracurricular activities. I was sensitized to social issues through my association with civil and community service organisations like Indian Scout and Guide, I was fortunate to be one of the few candidates from the state of Uttar Pradesh to have received the Governor’s award. 

Like any other aspiring student hailing from a humble background, I was very motivated and ambitious to do something for my family and the country. After completing my 12th standard from the Commerce stream with decent marks, I was certain that I didn’t want to pursue any conventional graduation course or pursue chartered accountancy. So, law as a career option came through the zeal to do something impactful.

Being a first generation lawyer, it was quite difficult to chalk out a typical plan in terms of selecting the institution and the subject of specialisation in law. Law College Dehradun, which was then affiliated to a Central University was recommended by one of our family friends based in Dehradun. 

But initially like any other student belonging to a tier three city in 2011-12, I was a bit nervous about the choice of the institution in India due to limited exposure. However, it was a blessing in disguise as Law College, Dehradun really helped me to inculcate some of the best values of the profession and life. It was an excellent journey with experienced faculty (notably our Principal Prof (Dr.) Rajesh Bahuguna and Prof (Dr.) Poonam Rawat, supportive batch-mates and world class education facilities that laid the foundation for my legal profession.

I believe it was due to my keenness to learn and ask questions beyond the curriculum that motivated me to pursue my Master’s in Law right after my law graduation. 

I was fortunate to get a reasonable rank to qualify CLAT PG-2017 to secure admission in one of the most prestigious law schools of India that is “West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences (“NUJS”), Kolkata”. 

Without reservation and with a humble acknowledgment, I admit that graduating in law from a traditional Central University, I was unaware of concepts like Anti-dumping (“ADD”) or Countervailing Measures (“CVD”) until my initial LL.M. class on International Trade Law at NUJS in 2017, under the guidance of my esteemed mentor, Prof. (Dr.) Sandeepa Bhat.

However, that 45-minute class sparked my curiosity, driving me to delve deeper into the subject and inspiring nearly 7 years of passionate work in this domain. 

Your academic journey is quite impressive, from your B.A. LLB at Law College Dehradun to your Ph.D. in International Trade Law. What were some of the key experiences or influences during your education that shaped your career path?

As I mentioned, I truly cherish every day of my law school that made me learn something or the other each day. During my law graduation days, I was really an active member of various student bodies and had an opportunity to be the President of the Legal Aid Centre of the college. I have participated and organised several national and international cultural and academic events that provided me with the exposure to learn a lot of things subconsciously.

What I can recall is that my initial internships were a bit unconventional like working for renowned NGOs like Childline India Foundation (Childline-1098) and Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK) that provided me an exposure to understand the issues of the weak and marginalised sections of our society. 

Also, my internships with Uttarakhand State Women Commission and Uttarakhand Human Rights Commission provided me a fair idea as to how good laws and policy, if implemented well, can act as an instrument to bring change and social justice.   

After completing my Masters, in the initial phase of my career, I worked as a Research Associate with the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (“DGTR”), under the Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India. This is India’s investigating authority to deal with Trade Remedial issues raised by Indian domestic industries against the unfair trade distortive practices. 

 At DGTR, I gained valuable insights on WTO jurisprudence and Indian practices while working with dynamic investigating teams (including officers from different cadres and ranks), handling ADD and CVD cases and actively contributed to providing institutional support to small and medium enterprises through awareness campaigns and technical assistance.

Your Ph.D. thesis focuses on “WTO Trade Remedial Measures.” Can you tell us about the most significant challenges you uncovered in your research and how they impact international trade, especially concerning India?

I started my research with a motivation or a quest to find answers to several questions regarding the hyper-technical concepts of International Trade Laws. My initial hypothesis that eventually stands correct in a technical sense was that the existing sensitive and procedural framework governing WTO Trade Remedial measures in India are not efficient and effective enough to address the contemporary issues in global trade.

One of the critical existing challenges in the WTO Trade Remedial investigations is the existence of unchecked administrative discretion of investigating authorities due to legislative shortcomings and procedural inconsistencies that impact international trade.

Transitioning from academia to professional practice, you worked as an Associate Director at SBA Group Solicitors and Consultants. How did this role help you apply your academic knowledge to real-world trade law cases?

Needless to mention, the legal profession is very demanding, such as International Trade Litigation.

I joined SBA Group Solicitors and Consultants (“SBA”) after working as a Trade Consultant with Government of India and as an in-house legal counsel with Jindal Group. So, by that time I got a reasonable idea of the expectations of the corporates/industry from Trade lawyers/consultants.

The experience at SBA was very rich and challenging but rewarding at the same time. Being one of the few Indian Trade Law firms in India that represents before the International Investigating Authorities like US Department of Commerce (USDOC) and European Commission, working with the firm was indeed an amazing and overwhelming experience. 

At SBA, I led a team responsible for representing Indian industries in Trade Remedial Investigations, specifically ADD, CVD, and Safeguard Measures before Trade Investigating Authorities, primarily the United States and the European Union. During my tenure, I also conducted comprehensive legal research and prepared precise technical and legal submissions, contributing to the successful execution of strategic assignments for major Indian corporate entities covering Textile, Steel, Pharmaceutical and Ceramic Industries. 

You’ve worked on more than 15 antidumping and countervailing duty cases, saving millions for your clients. Could you highlight one or two cases that were particularly challenging or rewarding and explain why?

I should confess that I was quite lucky to have such a rich experience so early in my career. I am especially grateful to my partners and the management at SBA to show such trust and confidence in me. Mr. Sunil Bhargava, Mr. Arpit Bhargava and Ms. Radhika Sharma deserve a special mention. 

Though working for each case and assignment was quite exciting, two important cases that provided me exceptional exposure was working with the Senior US Trade Counsel to prepare a legal brief before the US Court of International Trade (USCIT) challenging the finding of USDOC and another was to facilitate the verification of European Commission for one of our client who was the largest exporter of ceramic tiles to EU and work closely with the European Commission officers for each details and arguments, we were able to successfully defend our clients in the case.

Your experience includes working with international clients and representing cases before the U.S. Department of Commerce. How has this international exposure influenced your perspective on trade law?

Since both India and the Unites States are common law countries, so principally the legal fundamentals are broadly similar. Having said that, working with international clients from different cultural and educational backgrounds and that too in different time-zones was quite challenging. 

Further, practising before the USDOC was very fascinating, though it warrants a lot of diligence and accuracy but officials are very accommodating and are rational at the same time. This exposure provided me with a realisation that international trade litigation has a very significant impact on stakeholders globally. 

In your current role as a Consultant at the Centre for WTO Studies, what are some of the key projects or initiatives you’re involved in, particularly regarding the India-EU FTA negotiations?

I joined the Centre for WTO Studies in December 2023, following the completion of my doctorate in International Tarde Law. The Centre, established in 1999, serves as a permanent repository for knowledge and documentation related to WTO negotiations.

My decision to join the Centre was driven by a strong desire to further my learning and research capabilities by working alongside some of the brightest academic minds in the fields of WTO and International Trade Law and policy. The Centre offers a unique environment that combines institutional training with international exposure, which is crucial for enhancing my research skills.

In my current role, I am working closely with India’s Free Trade Agreement (FTA) negotiating teams. These teams engage with potential strategic trade partners, and my primary responsibility is to provide research and technical insights that inform the negotiation process.

This experience has been exceptionally rewarding, as it has allowed me to delve into the complexities of trade negotiations. I have gained a deeper understanding of the challenges involved in negotiating with developed nations and reaching mutually beneficial agreements. It has also been an eye-opener, revealing that international trade and negotiations extend far beyond the realms of law, economics, and policy, involving intricate dynamics and strategic considerations. 

We have noted that recently you have authored a book on WTO Trade Remedial Measures, what inspired you to write this book, what is the audience to seek to cater to?

My passion for international trade law and my hands-on experience in the domain have greatly motivated me to write a book titled “WTO Trade Remedial Measures: Navigating Legal and Economic Complexities in International Trade”. The book published by one of the renowned publication houses of the country, has received appreciation from academic and legal fraternity.

The multilateral trading system, epitomized by the World Trade Organization (WTO), is at a critical juncture due to escalating trade tensions and global crises. My book aims to unravel the evolution, challenges, and implications of trade remedy measures within the framework of WTO agreements. It offers a distinct focus on India’s perspective, enriched with a comparative analysis of practices in the United States and the European Union. This comprehensive exploration provides valuable insights into the contemporary trade environment and the specific issues faced by different jurisdictions.

In this context, the book undertakes a pioneering effort to evaluate existing laws and procedures concerning trade remedy measures in India. It sheds light on legislative shortcomings and procedural inconsistencies, advocating for safeguards against unchecked administrative discretion. By proposing amendments to enhance the efficacy of trade remedies, the book charts a course toward a more equitable and responsive global trading system.

This book is tailored for a diverse audience, including scholars, practitioners, policymakers, exporters, entrepreneurs, and students interested in international trade law, economics, and policy. It aims to serve as a critical resource for understanding the intricacies of trade remedy measures and their role in the multilateral trading system.

The motivation behind writing this book stems from my desire to contribute to the field by addressing existing gaps and offering practical solutions. My industrial exposure and passion for the subject drive me to advocate for a fairer and more effective global trade system, which I hope to achieve through this work.

Finally, based on your extensive academic and professional experience, what advice would you give to fresh graduates who are aspiring to build a career in law, especially in the niche field of international trade law?

Although I don’t consider myself an expert in career orientation. My mantra in my career is “to go with the flow and keep it simple”. However, here are some key points of advice for fresh graduates aspiring to build a career in law, especially in the niche field of international trade law:

  1. Stay Updated
  • Keep Abreast of Developments: Regularly read journals, articles, and news related to international trade law and WTO updates.
  • Attend Seminars and Webinars: Participate in conferences and webinars to stay informed about the latest trends and issues in the field.
  • Subscribe to Industry Newsletters: Follow relevant organizations, think tanks, and law firms that specialize in international trade law.
  1. Develop Soft Skills
  • Effective Communication: Work on your written and verbal communication skills to articulate complex legal concepts clearly.
  • Networking: Build and maintain professional relationships within the industry through networking events and social media platforms like LinkedIn.
  • Negotiation Skills: Develop strong negotiation skills, as they are crucial in trade law and dispute resolution.
  1. Embrace Technology
  • Familiarize with Legal Tech: Learn about the latest legal technologies and software that can aid in research, document management, and case analysis.
  • Enhance IT Skills: Be proficient in using data analysis tools and legal research databases.
  1. Identify Research Interests
  • Focus on Specific Areas: Identify and specialize in specific areas within international trade law, such as trade remedies, intellectual property rights, or dispute resolution.
  • Engage in Academic Research: Contribute to academic journals, write articles, and participate in research projects to build your expertise and profile.
  1. Gain Practical Experience
  • Internships and Fellowships: Seek internships at law firms, international organizations, or government agencies that deal with trade law.
  • Pro Bono Work: Engage in pro bono work related to trade law to gain hands-on experience and contribute to your community.
  1. Pursue Further Education and Certifications
  • Advanced Degrees: Consider pursuing an LLM or other advanced degrees in international trade law.
  • Certifications: Obtain certifications from recognized institutions to bolster your credentials.
  1. Understand the Global Context
  • Study Comparative Law: Learn about the trade laws and practices of different countries to gain a global perspective.
  • Language Skills: Develop proficiency in foreign languages, as this can be advantageous in international legal practice.
  1. Stay Open to Diverse Roles
  • Explore Various Roles: Be open to roles such as policy advisory, consultancy, or academia, which can provide diverse experiences and insights into international trade law.

Get in touch with Dr. Amit Randev-

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