In January 2012, the Vi, the University of Barcelona and the CEDDET Foundation, with financial support from the Government of Spain, launched the International Economic Relations Network (IERN).
The online professional network aims to provide further education and networking opportunities for graduates of the Vi/CEDDET online courses on legal instruments of international economic relations and regional cooperation, as well as to students of the University of Barcelona's (UB) Master in International Economic Law and Policy (IELPO).
In order to forge links among the ex-graduates and students, and to create a community of experts in international economic relations, the IERN coordinating team launched its first activities for the network in February.
A thematic forum on the overlapping of domestic, bilateral, regional and multilateral rules on foreign direct investment (FDI), moderated by UB's Vi member coordinator, Ramon Torrent, took place from February 13 to March 11. The debate gathered 20 contributions from 14 IERN participants in Argentina, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Russia, Spain, Tanzania, Trinidad & Tobago and Uganda, and earned the site's first 432 visits.
The discussion focused on four main issues: (a) possible contradiction between BITS and GATS (art. II); (b) the fact that the WTO agreements include provisions on FDI but do not provide "a comprehensive regime of investment rules"; (c) asymmetry between signatories of BITs from developed and developing countries; and (d) possibly incompatibility of BITs concluded by EU members with EU law after the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, and "what happens now to all these BITs concluded by EU member states"?
Participants felt that the topic needed more analysis and discussion and therefore decided to re-open the forum in July, with additional material for reflection.
A working group was also convened from March 2 to April 6 to discuss the developing countries' agenda for the system of international economic relations. The topic was moderated by Henok Birhanu, of Vi affiliate member Jigjiga University in Ethiopia, who is currently pursuing his Master's studies at IELPO. The 20 experts who chose to participate in the group (from Ecuador, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Spain, St. Lucia and Uganda) contributed 39 posts and four documents to the discussion.
The experts held intense debates about whether the needs of developing countries are properly addressed by the international trading system, the factors which affect the role of these countries in shaping global economic policy, and possible ways to enhance their capacity to define and pursue an alternative agenda.
The network continues to grow, as the number of registered experts increased from 102 in January, to 134 at the end of March.