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January 2007

David J. Gerber
Distinguished Professor of Law and Co-Director of the Program in International and Comparative Law

International antitrust law may once have been an esoteric specialty, but Professor David Gerber has seen the field grow to prime importance as international trade increases and the global economy becomes more integrated.

Competition laws and antitrust statutes are designed to prevent monopolies, encourage free enterprise, increase consumer choice and prohibit companies from manipulating prices. As a longtime member of the editorial board of the Journal of International Economic Law, The American Journal of Comparative Law and other international and comparative law journals, Gerber has published extensively on antitrust issues since the early 1980s and has lectured at universities around the globe.

Many countries that once had state-controlled economies are loosening their restrictions on enterprise and moving closer to the free-market system. Almost daily, for example, the news contains reports of China's rapid economic growth, but Gerber notes that the country does not yet have a competition law on the books. In recent years, Gerber has visited China to talk to leading scholars and government officials as they draft their country's first competition law, which is expected to be enacted next year.

"The substantive principles are largely structured on European lines with some influence from the United States, but how those principles are applied might end up being very Chinese," Gerber says.

On the other side of the world, the expansion of the European Union has created new challenges for lawyers, companies and administrative agencies, explains Gerber, who is currently writing a follow-up to his book Law and Competition in Twentieth Century Europe (Oxford University Press 1998, pbk ed. 2001) that will address more recent developments. In Europe, competition law is being used to integrate the economies of the member states. "It's a very complicated process, and it's an experiment that has never been tried before," says Gerber. "Basically the idea in Europe is that everyone should apply the same antitrust laws in the same way, using the same kinds of methods."

Gerber is also working on a book project that examines the relationship between antitrust laws and economic globalization. "As global economies become more integrated, there is increasing recognition of a need for antitrust laws, but this also creates risks for conflicts among jurisdictions and confusion and uncertainty for lawyers and businesses," he says. "There are now more than 100 countries that have antitrust laws. That can have many positive effects, but lawyers need to develop mechanisms to avoid conflicts among these laws and policies."

Gerber has always been interested in comparative studies. In his undergraduate and master's work, he looked not only at economic and political issues, but also at comparative religions and comparative philosophy. In his master's work at Yale University, he studied East Asia, but much of his comparative legal work has been focused on Europe. Whether teaching at Chicago-Kent or in foreign universities, he emphasizes the need for effective tools for understanding foreign legal systems. "Comparative law for me is not a matter of simply describing differences and similarities among systems, it is about strategies and capabilities for recognizing differences and similarities and for dealing with them," he says.

Gerber joined the Chicago-Kent faculty in 1982 and today he is co-director of the law school's Program in International and Comparative Law. His primary goal is for students to understand the importance of being able to move between legal systems. "I want them to be able to operate in a transnational context, to recognize what they need to know--as well as what they are not likely to know, and to understand what is important in dealing with law, lawyers and clients from differing legal systems," he says.

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