LAWYERS and trade economists are set to join forces in the City as Rowe & Maw launches an international trade group.
The group will be headed by partner Philip Ruttley, who joined Rowe & Maw from Garretts in October.
Ruttley says the group was formed in response to an increasingly global economy, and as a reaction to client needs. "The commercial im-pact of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is only now beginning to be realised, as demonstrated by the current bitter trade dispute over bananas."
He says the banana dispute is the first real test for the WTO system. "It's a battle between the two main players: the US and the European Union. And it's a test of how compliance will work."
WTO agreements are sector-based. A Financial Services Agreement will come into force on 15 June, and Ruttley says it may result in more work for lawyers.
The area opened up six month's ago when private counsel were for the first time allowed to represent governments in hearings at the WTO in Geneva.
Work is essentially intra-governmental, according to experts.
However, outside law firms are often retained by non-EU and US governments and multinational companies. Firms with capacity in this area usually have an EU competition or anti-dumping background.
Clifford Chance senior associate Peter Morrison, head of the WTO group, says: "The amount of work in this area is steadily increasing - although it is difficult to predict.
"Whether you need staff economists is something each firm must decide."