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15th Foreign Trade Law Conference in Münster

On 14th  and 15th  October 2010 the 15th Foreign Trade Law Conference (Außenwirtschaftsrechtstag) was held at the Freiherr-von-Vincke-Haus in Münster. This year’s conference dealt with the legal issues and questions regarding the customs union between the Russian federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan. As last member Belarus has joined Russia and Kazakhstan in a new customs union that aims to serve as a framework for a future common market. The trilateral agreement, which came into force on 6 July, follows an earlier bilateral agreement between Russia and Kazakhstan that became active five days prior. The stated goal of the union is to set up by 2012 a free trade area that would encompass the 170 million people living in the three participating countries. The current union does not fully eliminate all tariffs or duties between the members.

The two-day conference was organized by the Zentrum für Außenwirtschaftsrecht e.V. am Instiut für öffentliches Wirtschaftrecht der Westfälischen Wilhelms-Universität Münster. . It was hosted by Prof. Dr. Ehlers and Prof. Dr. Wolffgang, both members of the management board of ZAR. The thirteen high ranked speakers, coming from all three member states of the new founded customs union as well as Germany, talked in vivid reports and discussions about their impressions, concerns, hopes and wishes with respect to the new customs union. The audience, consisting of about 70 people, could learn about the different positions of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan in the customs union, the political relevance of the union for the European Union, Germany and the German Economy, the recognition of the customs union according to Article 24 GATT and the prospect for the union to become a member of the WTO. Besides giving their perspective of the new trilateral agreement, the speakers also had the chance to discuss their concerns and wishes with the audience in group discussions. Especially the point that there is no official language within the union but all three countries work in their own official language seemed to heat the tempers during the discussion. Several speakers expressed the need for one official language to improve uniformity among the member states.
On the contrary it was pointed out that the Eurasian Customs Union is still very young and has many years to develop. Even after almost six centuries of development, derived from the European Coal and Steel Community, the European Union still lacks uniformity in several areas and still has 23 official languages. Therefore it has been agreed that even though there are still challenges in future, the foundation of the new customs union is a great achievement and an important step to facilitate legitimate trade.

In his closing address Prof. Dr. Wolffgang pointed out that the 15th Foreign Trade Law Conference was a big success because it gave a podium to discuss first legal issues and questions of the new founded customs union between Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.  He pointed out that the conference was the first one of this kind that was held in two official languages; German and Russian. Furthermore Wolffgang addressed the need for further discussions of this new situation in the customs world which could be continued next year with even a bigger audience in one of the member states. In his conclusion he also thanked all speakers, the audience, the interpreters and the organizers of this successful event.

Please also find the ZAR-report of the conference: click here

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