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The conference on 'International Economic Law And Security Interests' will discuss the increasing role of security considerations in the international economic legal order. More than 40 international researchers will share their research during the conference, which will take place on 14 and 15 November 2019 in Amsterdam.

Event details of International Economic Law And Security Interests Conference
Start date 14 November 2019
End date 15 November 2019
Time 09:00

The Topic

For decades, international economic law was deemed the “de-politicised” branch of international law. Rules-based dispute settlement, conducted by independent adjudicators, became the norm. Economic governance institutions were insulated from the decision-making fora of the United Nations, in which peace and security are overriding considerations. In trade and investment agreements, security exceptions were invoked sparingly, permitting governments and private entities to operate within a predictable legal framework. While this legalistic environment was never uncontested, key actors in the regime supported the assumption that, by and large, economic governance could be dissociated from broader geopolitical struggles.

This is no longer the case. The current United States administration is a vocal exponent of this shift, promoting the position that security concerns are no longer a mere exception to legal obligations, but now permeate the entirety of its economic relations. The European Union, whose supranational powers traditionally stop where security issues begin, has enacted a foreign investment screening framework aimed at protecting security and public order. China’s national security legislation has led governments to block Chinese firms from participating in the development of 5G mobile network infrastructure. All over the world, data protection and data localisation legislation challenge the notion that the internet is free and without borders, securing to governments the technical ability as well as the legal entitlement to control the flow of information across borders in order to protect security interests.

These developments may strain the ability of international economic law to operate under its usual legalistic assumptions. The World Trade Organization, which for two decades seemed to stand above geopolitical struggles, is now required to deal with the security exception in various parallel disputes. At the same time, its legalised dispute settlement procedure is under threat. The international investment regime, which developed under a fragmented legal and institutional structure, is now the subject of multilateral reform efforts just as states around the world erect barriers to foreign investment to preserve their security interests. Under India’s new model treaty, mere invocation of the security exception by a state would make a dispute non-justiciable.

The language of security is also expanding beyond traditional military security. In a world in which everyday objects are increasingly connected to the internet, how do WTO obligations and cybersecurity interact? Does a WTO Member’s determination to protect food security prevail over commitments to eliminate trade-distorting agricultural subsidies? Does the search for energy security permit countries to restrict foreign investment? Can states prohibit entire fields of economic activity and nullify the value of investments to pursue global climate security?

The Conference

Besides a roundtable on the adjudication of the security exception, the Conference will feature panels on the  different aspects of the topic. A detailed programme will be published at the end of September 2019. The topics covered during the conference are thematically grouped along the following themes:

International Law and Security

  • International Adjudication and Security Issues
  • The Security Exception in International Treaties: History, Drafting, Interpretation
  • Securitization of Law, Legalisation of Security

Security Interests in International Economic Law

  • Security Concerns and the Multilateral Trading System
  • Security, Transnational Investment, and the International Investment Regime
  • Security Issues and Regional Economic Integration
  • Security and State-Owned Enterprises: Challenges to the Public-Private Divide

Emerging Security Issues

  • Cybersecurity and Data Security
  • Security and the Design of State Measures: Subsidies and Government Procurement
  • Beyond Military Security: Economic Security, Food Security, Climate Security, Energy Security, Human Security


The conference is jointly organised by the Amsterdam Center for International Law (ACIL) and the ESIL Interest Group International Economic Law, with co-chairs


Registration for the conference is closed.


The conference will take place at the University of Amsterdam on 14 and 15 November 2019. Exact details will be shared with participants after registration.


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