WTO deputy joins Van Bael & Bellis

Deputy director general moves into private practice to head Van Bael's Geneva team

The World Trade Organization's (WTO) deputy director general Miguel Rodriguez Mendoza has quit the trade body to head Van Bael & Bellis's Geneva office.

Recruiting the WTO's second highest ranking official, after Mike Moore, represents a considerable coup for the Brussels-based competition and trade boutique, which hopes that this appointment will spur the firm's growth in Geneva.

Rodriguez said: “Traditionally, law firms have been involved with trade disputes at the WTO, but I think the role of law firms can go beyond that and give assistance to developing nations in Doha Development Agenda negotiations.”

Van Bael is well established in Brussels with more than 50 lawyers, but it opened its Geneva office only three years ago. Until now, Geneva has been manned by just one associate, with lawyers shuttling in from Brussels. It is hoped that Rodriguez's appointment will spark a period of growth.

Rodriguez, a lawyer by profession but new to private practice, says that the WTO is becoming increasingly legalistic and believes that as the scope of the WTO grows, it will need more help from firms such as Van Bael. “There are more than 30 countries negotiating accession to the WTO and they will need help,” he said.

Until March 1998, Rodriguez was chief trade adviser at the Organization of American States (OAS) where he established the organisation's trade unit, which played a big part in the negotiations of the free trade area of the Americas. Between 1991 and 1994, he was minister of state and president of the Institute of Foreign Trade, Venezuela's governmental body responsible for the country's trade policies.