Dr. Robert MacLean leads our International Trade team in Europe. He is a globally recognised expert in his field. After starting his career at DG-Trade of the European Commission, he now represents a large number of EU industries, corporations and exporters in trade disputes, World Trade Organization (WTO) law and anti-dumping or anti-subsidy investigations. He has also been lead counsel in approximately two dozen appeals to the European General Court and the Court of Justice, including a number of landmark cases helping to shape EU trade law and policy.

    Robert specialises in contentious litigation, investigations and procedures before the European Commission and the European Courts on trade-related disputes and remedies. He also advises on EU export control, sanctions and trade compliance as well as law of the WTO. He has been practicing in Brussels and London in this field, mainly at partner-level, for more than 25 years. Leveraging his many years of experience at EU level, he is now also advising clients on the new UK customs regime and its independent trade remedy framework as Brexit approaches.

    Robert is praised for his creativity and problem-solving abilities, particularly relating to successful advocacy and the pursuit of cost savings and financial recoveries for his clients. Chambers Global 2017 recently identified Robert as “a great trade lawyer, very active on all sorts of successful projects”. The previous edition commented that “Peers single out Robert MacLean as a good example of a pure trade lawyer – he is 100% involved. Clients concur that he is “an exceptional specialist”.”

    He has been principal legal adviser in more than 70 EU trade remedy procedures for a variety of different EU industries and trade associations, importers and exporters in many countries, including the US, China, Taiwan, India and Cambodia. His trade client list spans a wide spectrum of EU and global industries, ranging from traditional manufacturing to advanced IT products. He also has substantial experience in the full range of EU trade remedy procedures, such as complaints and exporter defence work, but also in rarer and more novel kinds of procedures, such as refunds, anti-circumvention, anti-absorption and interim and expiry reviews. He was also project leader for two significant evaluations of EU trade policy for DG-Trade of the European Commission.

    Many of these representations have been high profile and, in some instances, have involved litigation in the European Courts. Robert has now conducted more than two dozen appeals to the European Courts as lead counsel for his clients, with a high degree of success in terms of favourable judgments or negotiated settlements with the EU institutions.

    His work in the area of EU customs law mainly relates to duty reduction and recovery. He has successfully filed more than 50 requests for autonomous duty suspensions in France, Germany, Belgium and the UK. He is also the architect of the firm’s EU Duty Reduction and Recovery programme that has helped clients achieve significant amounts in EU customs duty savings for their European manufacturing operations.

    Robert is also a member of the Advisory Section of the UK Law Societies’ Joint Brussels Office, which is comprised of a selection of Brussels’ leading UK-qualified solicitors. The section provides support to the Law Societies’ Brussels Office in the form of strategic advice and insights on topics and issues facing Brussels-based practitioners. He is dual qualified as a Scottish solicitor and Belgian avocat.

    Robert is recognised as a thought-leading practitioner in all the leading publications ranking international and EU lawyers, including Chambers Global, Chambers Europe, Who’s Who Legal Guide to Trade and Customs Lawyers, The Legal 500 EMEA, Best Lawyers in Belgium and the Expert Guide to the World’s Leading Lawyers. He has frequently been quoted in a number of leading financial media sources, including the Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Reuters and the International Herald Tribune.

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    Landmark EU Litigation

    • Obtaining four successful separate appeal judgments requiring the European Commission to repay anti-dumping duties to EU importers. The judgments break new ground and resolve the so-called “duty as a cost” issue, which previously limited EU anti-dumping refund payments for the last two decades.
    • Successful appeal before the General Court for the annulment of EU anti-dumping duties imposed on a non-EU exporter on the grounds of breach of its procedural rights of defence in the administrative investigation.
    • Successful appeal on behalf of a German manufacturer for the recovery of anti-dumping duties unlawfully assessed on imports of its merchandise under an outward processing arrangement.
    • Acting on behalf of an EU industry in bringing an appeal before the European Court challenging a decision by the European Commission to terminate an anti-dumping investigation without the imposition of effective measures.
    • Representing an EU industry in challenging a determination by the European Commission to impose insufficient levels of dumping duties on Chinese exports in apparent breach of the rules for the calculation of dumping margins.
    • Pursuing an appeal before the European Court against a decision on the part of the European Commission to terminate duty suspension entitlements granted to a US corporation.

    EU Customs Duties Reduction and Recovery Projects

    • Successfully developing and deploying a duty reduction programme involving multiple duty suspensions applications for chemical substances for a US-based corporation to reduce its raw material costs by obtaining relief from the EU customs duties on imported raw materials resulting in substantial cost savings for its European operations.
    • Successfully obtaining definitive country of origin EU customs rulings for a biotechnology company, allowing them to continue to export its products duty free despite a significant change in their raw material sourcing.
    • Advising a multinational company making sophisticated IT products in Europe on the reduction of its EU customs duty liabilities for its manufacturing operations in Italy and the Slovak Republic.

    Complex Anti-dumping and Anti-subsidy Investigations

    • Acting for an EU industry in a rare EU anti-absorption investigation that led to the doubling of the anti-dumping duties on imports from China.
    • Successfully representing an association of Italian and Spanish distilleries in extending the EU anti-dumping measures on imports of Chinese tartaric acid and having them increased.
    • Advising a US-based multinational corporation on the application of WTO law in an anti-dumping investigation started by one of its manufacturing subsidiaries in a Far East Asian country.
    • Successfully representing one of the largest Chinese state-owned steel producers and the China Iron and Steel Association (CISA) in the recent EU anti-dumping investigation concerning grain-oriented electrical steel by obtaining the lowest anti-dumping duty rate for the client and convincing the European Commission to accept minimum price undertakings instead of definitive duties.
    • Defending the largest Taiwanese producer of welded pipes and tubes against allegations of dumping and obtaining the lowest duty rate while anti-dumping measures of up to 65% were applied to other exporting producers thereby giving our client a significant competitive advantage.
    • Advising a major Taiwanese bicycle and e-bike manufacturer on its investment in a new EU production site and successfully navigating the legal requirements for obtaining a licence for importation of parts and components free from EU anti-dumping duties.
    • Successfully securing a retroactive amendment to the product scope of an EU anti-dumping regulation thereby saving the client from having to pay several million euros in unlawful duty assessments made by the German and Dutch customs authorities.

    International Trade Law Compliance

    • Advising multiple clients on the practical implications of Brexit as it affects their long-term strategic planning to ensure the future provision of services and the continuation of manufacturing activities as well as the optimisation of logistical and supply-chain management post-Brexit.
    • Advising a US technology company on the EU regulations on the modification of machinery equipment to allow it to supply added-value IT control systems to complex production equipment.

    EU Customs Duty Reduction and Recovery Programmes

    • Developing and deploying a duty reduction programme involving multiple successful duty suspensions applications for chemical substances for a US-based corporation using the imports as raw materials for further processing in the EU resulting in large cost savings.
    • Implementing a duty reduction programme for a US multinational company with manufacturing operations in the EU making IT products.
    • Significant retroactive recovery of past EU customs duty payments for a French-based petroleum refinery through reclassification of its imports.
    • Securing an annual tariff-free quota for a chemical commodity product, which has been successfully rolled over for the last five years.

    Selected Illustrations of Litigation Before the European General Court and Court of Justice

    • Cases T-73-76/12, Nu Air Compressors and Tools SpA and Others v. European Commission, successful actions for annulment of multiple Commission decisions refusing full refunds of EU anti-dumping duties.
    • Case T-274/07, Zhejiang Harmonic Hardware Co. Ltd v. Council of the European Union, successful action for annulment of EU antidumping regulation.
    • Case T-07/99, Medici Grimm KG v. Council of the European Union, successful action for annulment of EU anti-dumping regulation.
    • Case T-153/13, ET Solar Industry and Others v. European Commission, negotiated settlement and minimum price undertakings granted.
    • Case T-211/16, Caviro Distillerie v. European Commission, pending case, action for annulment of Commission decision refusing to impose anti-dumping measures on Chinese exporters.
    • Case C-223/17P, Lubrizol France SAS v. EU Council, pending case, appeal to the Court of Justice against a lower court judgment declining to annul an EU duty suspension regulation.
    • Case T-431/12, Distillerie Bonollo and Others v. EU Council, pending case, action for annulment against an EU anti-dumping regulation failing to provide effective relief to an EU industry.
    • Case T-299/05, Shanghai Excell Precision Limited v. EU Council, action for annulment of an EU anti-dumping regulation.

    EU and International Trade Compliance and Enforcement

    • Lodging and pursuing complaints to OLAF, the EU Anti-Fraud Office, to prevent circumvention of EU anti-dumping duties imposed on certain compressors from China.
    • Successfully obtaining EBTI rulings for Russian fertiliser products to confirm certainty that these imports were not covered by the scope of EU anti-dumping measures.
    • Advice on proper labelling of medical supplements under EU regulations and proper classification of these substances under the EU’s customs rules.
    • Assessment of country of origin status for imports such as complex mechanical equipment, food additives made from materials sourced from a large number of different countries as well as solar panels and wafers.

    EU Trade Remedy Investigations

    • Tartaric acid from China (expiry review, 2017).
    • Bicycle parts and components from China (anti-circumvention exemption, 2017).
    • Tubes and pipe fittings of stainless steel from Taiwan and China (initial investigation, 2016-2017).
    • Ceramic tableware from China (new shipper applications, 2017).
    • Grain-oriented electrical steel from Korea, China, Japan, the US and Russia (initial investigation, 2015-2016).
    • Bicycles from Cambodia (anti-circumvention investigation, 2015-2016).
    • Solar glass from China (anti-absorption investigation, 2015-2016).
    • Solar panels, wafers and parts from China (anti-dumping and anti-subsidy, 2013-2014).
    • Tartaric acid from China (anti-dumping expiry and interim reviews, 2011-2012).
    • Miniature air compressors from China (anti-dumping scope review, 2011).
    • Air compressors from China (anti-dumping refunds, 2010-2011).
    • Coated fine paper from China (anti-dumping and anti-subsidy, 2010-2011).
    • Sodium metal from the US (anti-dumping and anti-subsidy, 2008-2009).
    • Seamless pipes of iron and steel from China (anti-dumping, 2008-2009).
    • Stainless steel rolled-cold flat products from China, Korea and Taiwan (anti-dumping, 2008-2009).
    • Iron and steel fasteners from China (anti-dumping, 2008).
    • Monosodium glutamate from China (anti-dumping, 2007).
    • Citric acid from China (anti-dumping, 2007).

    Export Controls, Economic Sanctions and Anti-corruption Compliance

    • Advising on witness statements for potential prosecution of the customer of a UK-based company who attempted to export controlled devices without procuring a valid export licence.
    • Advising on product qualification under the EU’s dual use regulations.
    • Advising on the UK and EU blocking statutes forbidding compliance with US extraterritorial trade restrictions.


    • University of Alberta, LL.M., 1998
    • University of Glasgow, Ph.D., 1995
    • University of Glasgow, Diploma, 1986
    • University of Glasgow, LL.B., (Hons), 1985


    • Belgium, 2002
    • Scotland, 1994

    Memberships and Affiliations

    • Member of the International Bar Association (IBA)


    • English
    • French
    • Recognized in Chambers Europe 2020 for: Europe-wide - International Trade/WTO
    • Recognized in Chambers Europe 2019 for: Europe-wide - International Trade/WTO
    • Recommended in The Legal 500 UK 2017 for Trade, WTO, anti-dumping and customs
    • Ranked in Expert Guide 2017 for International Trade & Shipping, a ranking of the world’s leading lawyers in the field
    • Recommended in The Legal 500 EMEA 2016 in Customs, trade, WTO and anti-dumping, Belgium
    • Recommended in The Legal 500 EMEA 2016
    • Recommended in Chambers Global 2016 for International Trade in Belgium and Europe-wide
    • Recommended in Chambers Europe 2015
    • Recommended in The Legal 500 EMEA 2015
    • Noted in The Best Lawyers in Belgium for trade matters
    • Recognized in Chambers Global 2015 as a leading international expert on International Trade, Belgium and Europe-wide (double ranked)

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    • Project leader and author of “Final Report on the Evaluation of the European Union’s Market Access Strategy”, for DG-Trade of the European Commission.
    • Project leader and author of “Final Report on the Evaluation of the European Union’s Trade Barrier Regulation (TBR)”, for DG-Trade of the European Commission.
    • Author, “The EU Trade Barrier Regulation – Tackling Unfair Foreign Trade Practices”, Sweet & Maxwell, Second Edition, 2006.

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