Dr. Robert MacLean leads our International Trade team in Europe. Robert specialises in contentious litigation and procedures involving trade-related matters and defending his clients’ interests in investigations conducted by global trade and customs regulators, particularly trade remedy investigations, customs law violations, export controls and sanctions. He is a globally recognised expert in his field. Robert has been lead counsel for his clients in more than three dozen actions and appeals to the European General Court and the Court of Justice, including several landmark cases helping to shape EU trade law and policy.
Robert has more than 30 years of experience as an international and European trade lawyer. He counsels his clients on World Trade Organization (WTO) law, as well as how to handle anti-dumping, anti-subsidy and safeguard investigations all over the world. He has been principal legal adviser for his clients in more than 100 international investigations and global trade disputes involving the investigating authorities in the European Union, the US, China and a number of Far East Asian and Latin American countries. Many of these assignments have been high profile and, in some instances, have involved litigation in the EU courts.
He is commended by his clients for his creativity and problem-solving abilities, particularly relating to successful advocacy and the relentless pursuit of his clients’ economic and commercial interests. Chambers Global 2021 reported that his clients consider him “superb on trade issues, totally reliable to think outside the box and he knows the subject extremely well”. Previous editions of the same publication identified him as “a great trade lawyer, very active on all sorts of successful projects” and that “peers single out Robert MacLean as a good example of a pure trade lawyer – he is 100% involved and clients concur that he is “an exceptional specialist”.”
Who's Who Legal 2020 also recognises him as a global leader in international trade and customs law and says that “he has made a name in trade remedy investigations and brings decades of experience to the table.”
Robert’s industry experience spans a wide spectrum of global industries, ranging from electrically-produced steel, minerals and mechanical machinery to eco-friendly products such as solar glass, solar modules, conventional and electric bicycles, natural food additives and bio-degradable organic chemicals and detergents.
Robert also advises on the negotiation and implementation of free trade agreements between the EU and its global trading partners, including advocacy to improve market access and the thorny issues of rules of origin, valuation and customs facilitation procedures. In addition, he specialises in EU customs regulation, export control, sanctions and trade compliance.
His work in the area of EU and UK customs law mainly relates to investigations and audits conducted by OLAF, the French, Dutch, German and Belgian customs authorities and HMRC where he defends his clients’ interests in such probes. Leveraging his many years of experience at the EU level, he is now also guiding his clients on the implementation and enforcement of the new UK customs regime and its independent trade remedy framework post-Brexit.
Robert is currently Vice-Chair of the Cross-Border Practice Management Committee, under the International Law Section of the American Bar Association, with responsibility overseeing policy matters. He is a member of the Advisory Group of the Joint UK Law Societies’ Brussels Office, providing strategic advice and insights on topics and issues facing Brussels-based lawyers especially post-Brexit. He is also a member of the firm’s core Brexit interest group.
Robert was the lead adviser on EU legal issues for the bi-partisan Alternative Arrangements Commission set up by Greg Hands, now Minister for State for UK trade policy, and Nicky Morgan, to develop solutions to promote seamless cross-border trade in the island of Ireland. He was also the Project Leader and author of two comprehensive policy studies for the European Commission on the effectiveness of the EU’s market access strategy.
Robert’s PhD in law, awarded in 1995, is in the field of WTO law and US and EU trade remedies. He is a dual qualified Scottish solicitor and Belgian avocat (List-A).
Landmark EU Litigation
Complex Anti-dumping and Anti-subsidy Investigations
Export Controls, Economic Sanctions and Anti-corruption Compliance
EU Customs Duties Reduction and Recovery Projects
Market Access and WTO Advice