Isabelle Van Damme specialises in international trade law (WTO and preferential trade agreements) and EU law. Her practice also covers all aspects of public international law. She represents governments and individuals before various international courts and tribunals.

International trade law (WTO and preferential trade agreements)

Isabelle advises clients on WTO procedural and substantive law and represents governments in WTO dispute settlement proceedings.

Isabelle has represented WTO Members before WTO panels and the Appellate Body in dispute settlement proceedings involving, inter alia, export quotas and duties, accession protocols, export licensing, technical barriers to trade, transit restrictions, administration and review of trade measures, general exceptions and the security exception, minimum export pricing, discriminatory taxation and customs valuation.

Isabelle advises governments and corporations on all aspects of the negotiation and implementation of preferential trade agreements and investment agreements. Her work on dispute settlement under preferential trade agreements includes designing a system of judicial remedies and advising a government in one of the first disputes arising under an EU preferential trade agreement. Isabelle previously gained experience in the area of WTO law as an associate at a Geneva-based law firm. She has also worked as a Legal Intern at the WTO Appellate Body Secretariat.

She has taught WTO law at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom) and the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL) (Belgium). At the end of 2020, Isabelle was elected Executive Vice-President of the Society of International Economic Law.

On 23 June 2022, the European Commission published its appointment of Isabelle to the “List of Candidates for Appointment as Arbitrators and TSD Experts”.

EU law

Isabelle has significant expertise in the area of EU law.

Her experience of acting or advising as counsel in cases before the Court of Justice of the European Union includes cases relating to Brexit, staff regulations, sanctions, EU tobacco legislation, State aid, the retroactive application of trade remedies and cases involving the relevance under EU law of the status of disputed territories under international law. She advises also on EU sanctions legislation, EU customs law, data protection and government procurement.

Isabelle helps governments and industry with all matters relating to Brexit. She has appeared as an expert witness before the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, speaking on Brexit and agriculture, and before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons, answering questions on the implications of the EU Withdrawal Agreement and the backstop for Northern Ireland.

Isabelle previously worked as a référendaire in the chambers of Advocate General Sharpston at the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Public international law

Isabelle regularly advises on a wide range of public international law matters, including the territorial scope of application of treaties, treaty obligations, human rights, investment and sanctions. She also advises on all matters relating to international dispute settlement and the negotiation of international agreements. Furthermore, she assists clients with matters involving compliance with and enforcement of UN, EU and national sanctions.

Isabelle has acted or advised as counsel in cases before the WTO and the Court of Justice of the European Union relating to the right of self-determination, the principle of sovereignty over natural resources and the protection of essential security interests. She has also advised in cases before the European Court of Human Rights.

Isabelle previously gained valuable experience in public international law as a Legal Liaison Officer at the United Nations Secretariat, Legal Affairs, Codification Division.

She has taught public international law at the University of Cambridge (United Kingdom), the World Trade Institute/University of Bern (Switzerland), and the University of Leuven (KUL) (Belgium).


Dutch, English, French, Spanish


  • Legal 500 for WTO: Switzerland
  • Legal 500 for Customs, Trade, WTO and Anti-dumping


  • University of Cambridge, Ph.D. in Law, 2007
  • Georgetown University, Certificate in WTO Law, 2003
  • Georgetown University, LL.M., distinction and Dean’s Certificate, 2003
  • Georgetown University, Diploma in American Law and Legal Education, 2002
  • University of Ghent, Master of Laws, magna cum laude, 2002
  • University of Ghent, Bachelor of Law, magna cum laude, 1999


Isabelle has published widely in the areas of EU and international trade law and some examples are listed below.

Monographs and edited books 

The Oxford Handbook of International Trade Law, second edition (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) (co-edited with D. Bethlehem, D. McRae and R. Neufeld).

Commentary on the WTO Anti-Dumping Agreement (Cambridge University Press, 2021) (co-authored with P. De Baere and C. du Parc).

Treaty Interpretation by the WTO Appellate Body (Oxford University Press, 2009) (reviewed at 22(2) European Journal of International Law (2011) 571-588).

The Oxford Handbook of International Trade Law (Oxford University Press, 2009) (co-edited with D. Bethlehem, D. McRae and R. Neufeld).

Chapters in books 

‘National security’ in D. Bethlehem, D. McRae, R. Neufeld and I. Van Damme (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Trade Law, second edition (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

‘Likeness and Environment in the GATT years’ in P. Delimatis and L. Reins (eds), Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (Edward Elgar, 2021) (with T. Payosova).

‘Investment arbitration under intra-EU BITs’ in N. Lavranos and J.R. Mata Dona (eds), International Arbitration and EU Law (Edward Elgar, 2021) (with Q. Declève) 291-319.

‘Technical Barriers to Trade in the New Generation of EU Trade Agreements’ in M. Hahn and G. Van der Loo (eds), Law and Practice of the Common Commercial Policy (Brill/Nijhoff, 2021) 206-234. ‘

‘Facultative mixity and the European Union’s trade and investment agreements’ in I. Govaere and M. Chamon (eds), EU External Relations Post-Lisbon – The Law and Practice of Facultative Mixity (Brill, 2020) (with Gesa Kübek) 257-300.

‘Technical Barriers to Trade’ in M. Hahn and G. Van der Loo (eds), Law and Practice of the Common Commercial Policy (Brill/Nijhoff, 2021) 206-234.

‘Preliminary rulings’ in J. Huerta-Goldman and M. Molina-Tejeda (eds), Practical Aspects of WTO Litigation (Kluwer Law International, 2020) 257-300.

‘Understanding the choice for evolutionary interpretation’ in G. Abi-Saab, G. Marceau and C. Marquet (eds), Evolutionary Interpretation and International Law (Hart, 2019) 171-179.

‘Trade’ in M. Bowman and D. Kritsiotis (eds), Conceptual and Contextual Perspectives on the Modern Law of Treaties (Cambridge University Press, 2018) (with Joost Pauwelyn).

‘Treaties and Treaty Interpretation in International Economic Law’ in T. Cottier and K. Nadakavukaren Schefer (eds), Encyclopedia of International Economic Law (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017).

‘Procedural review in WTO law’ in J. Gerards and E. Brems (eds), Procedural review in European fundamental rights cases (Cambridge University Press, 2017).

‘Good Faith in Treaty Interpretation’ in A. Mitchell, M. Sornarajah and T. Voon (eds), Good Faith in International Investment Law (Oxford University Press, 2015) (with Eric De Brabandere).

‘The Appellate Body’s Use of the Articles on State Responsibility in US – Anti-Dumping and Countervailing Duties (China)’ in C. Chinkin and F. Baetens (eds), Sovereignty, Statehood and State Responsibility: Essays in Honour of James Crawford (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

‘Jurisdiction, Applicable Law and Interpretation’ in D. Bethlehem, D. McRae, R. Neufeld, and I. Van Damme (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Trade Law (Oxford University Press, 2009).


‘Introduction’ to EU Law Live Weekend Edition on the EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment, EU Law Live Weekend Edition No 56 (1 May 2021).

‘De rechtspraak van het Hof van Justitie over investeringsarbitrage onder intra-EU en extra-EU investeringsverdragen’ 12 SEW (2020) 658-668 (with Q. Declève). ‘Expired measures, excess duty drawbacks and causation: the Appellate Body report in EU – PET (Pakistan)’ 19(2) World Trade Review (2020) 232-248 (with Arevik Gnutzmann-Mkrtchyan)

‘Reflections on the WTO Negotiations on Prohibiting IUU Fishing Subsidies’ GSI Policy Brief, International Institute for Sustainable Development (February 2020).

‘The Assessment of expert evidence in international adjudication’, 9(3) Journal of International Dispute Settlement (2018) 401-410.

‘Achmea: potential consequences for CETA, the Multilateral Investment Court, Brexit and other EU trade and investment agreements’, International Litigation Blog (March 2018) (with Quentin Declève).

‘The Judicial Trilemma: a response by Isabelle Van Damme’, 111 American Journal of International Law Unbound (2017) 359-363.

‘Professor John H. Jackson and the normative challenges of the WTO’, 19(2) Journal of International Economic Law (2016) 343-346.

‘Case C-414/11 Daiichi: The Impact of the Lisbon Treaty on the Competence of the European Union over the TRIPS Agreement’, 4(1) Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law (2015) 73-87.

‘A practical perspective on treaty interpretation: the Court of Justice of the European Union and the WTO dispute settlement system’, 3(2) Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law (2014) 489-507 (with Andreas Sennekamp).

‘Co-Adaptation in the International Legal Order: the EU and the WTO’, Proceedings of the Bi-Annual Meeting of the European Society of International Law (2011) 311-325 (with Geert De Baere).

‘On ‘Good Faith Use of Dictionary in the Search of Ordinary Meaning under the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding’ – A Reply to Professor Chang-Fa Lo’, 2(1) Journal of International Dispute Settlement (2011) 231-239.

‘Treaty Interpretation by the WTO Appellate Body’, 21(3) European Journal of International Law (2010) 605-648.

‘Inherent Powers of and for the WTO Appellate Body’, Centre for Trade and Economic Integration Working Paper, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Geneva) (August 2008)

‘The Non-Politics of Interpreting Silences in the WTO Covered Agreements’, 102 ASIL Proceedings (2008) 420-424.

‘Some Observations about the ILC Study Group Report on the Fragmentation of International Law: WTO Treaty Interpretation Against the Background of Other International Law’, XVII Finnish Yearbook of International Law (2006) 47-65.

‘The Interpretation of Schedules of Commitments’, 41(1) Journal of World Trade (2007) 1-54.

Teaching Positions

Isabelle Van Damme regularly lectures on trade law and EU external relations law. She is a Visiting Professor at the College of Europe, where she teaches EU trade law and policy. She previously was a lecturer and the Turpin Lipstein Fellow at the University of Cambridge, Clare College. She has also taught at the World Trade Institute, the University of Leuven (KUL) and the Université Catholique de Louvain (UCL).

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Publications and insights

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    • 24/08/2022
    • News

    The EU Deforestation Due Diligence Proposal: update on the positions of EU institutions

    On 17 November 2021, the European Commission (“Commission”) published a Proposal for a Regulation on placing on the EU market and exporting from the European Union wood, cattle (beef), cocoa, coffee, palm oil and soy and derived products associated with deforestation and forest degradation (“Proposed Regulation”). According to the Proposed Regulation, those products can no longer be placed or made available on the EU market, nor can they be exported from the EU market, unless they are deforestation-free. The Proposed Regulation applies to the covered goods originating in any country.

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    • 29/07/2022
    • News

    European Union Imposes Severe Sanctions on Russia

    In response to Russia’s recognition of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine on 22 February 2022 and its continuing military aggression against Ukraine starting on 23 February 2022, the European Union (“EU”) has adopted several packages of sanctions severely restricting economic relations with Russia, Russian entities, and persons. VBB’s Guide to the EU sanctions against Russia has been updated to cover the “maintenance and alignment package” published on 21 July 2022. The Guide identifies the relevant regulations, explains what sanctions apply, and flags key compliance actions.

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    • 12/07/2022
    • News

    VBB proudly sponsors ELSA Moot Court Competition on WTO Law

    Van Bael & Bellis, a leading international trade law firm with offices in Brussels, London and Geneva, is the main sponsor of the John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition on WTO Law organised by the European Law Students’ Association (ELSA). This year, for its 20th edition, Van Bael & Bellis partner and head of the Geneva office, Clotilde du Parc; partner, Isabelle Van Damme; senior associate, Tetyana Payosova; and associate, Victor Crochet, acted as panelists in the final rounds of the competition. In addition, Victor Crochet, co-authored this year’s case and served, together with Isabelle Van Damme, as one of the judges in the Grand Final. The John H. Jackson Moot Court Competition is a student-organised competition designed to enhance participants’ knowledge of international trade law and WTO dispute settlement procedures. From February to May 2022, 71 universities and more than 200 students from all over the world participated in six regional rounds. After months of competition, the best 25 teams advanced to the Final Oral Round that took place at WTO Headquarters in Geneva (Switzerland) from 28 June to 2 July 2022. Congratulations to the University of Zurich for winning the competition, and to Katholieke Universiteit Leuven for being the runner-up!

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