As Russia's accession to the World Trade Organization nears, and regionalization efforts intensify, Alexandra Koval, Senior Lecturer at St. Petersburg State University (SPSU), looked at the phenomenon of forum shopping for dispute settlement during her Vi fellowship, December 5-16.

"Russia has an integration process -- the customs union with Belarus and Kazakhstan -- and I am interested in the dispute settlement experience of Latin America, with NAFTA and MERCOSUR," Koval said. "There's not much research in this field now."

Forum shopping occurs when parties to trade agreements seek the most favorable venue to settle their disputes. As members of the WTO increasingly engage in regional trade agreements, they frequently find that they have multiple options in terms of fora eligible to rule on their discord.

In order to assist Koval in her research, the Vi facilitated her access to UNCTAD literature and data, as well as to government and non-government actors, such as delegates from Latin American missions and experts from the WTO Legal Affairs Division and the Advisory Centre on WTO Law.

"The interviews were very important," she said. "In order to understand forum shopping and how countries approach their dispute settlement, it was essential to be in contact with experts in the field of study," she said.

Koval began to study trade dispute issues with Vi affiliate member coordinator, Olga Trofimenko, and later refined her focus on Latin America after conducting research in Argentina and Brazil. Based on this experience, she developed two case studies for SPSU's recently published compendium of teaching materials on the international trading system.

"The fellowship gave me a significant opportunity which I wouldn’t have had in Russia because the experts gave their views on my research, and provided interesting and useful information, which couldn’t be found in any book," she said. 

Koval plans to publish the results of her research as an article in a Russian peer-reviewed journal, and hopes to publish it in English later on. The results will also be integrated in several courses of SPSU's Master's programme on the international trading system.