Professor Fiona Smith


I joined the Law School in 2017 as Professor of International Economic Law and N8 Chair in Agrifood Regulation, having previously held positions at University of Warwick and UCL. In 2018, I was also appointed as Associate Director for the Global Food and Environment Institute at the University of Leeds, where I lead multidisciplinary research on agrifood supply chains. I have been Visiting Professor at several law schools in the USA, including University of Minnesota, University of Michigan, and Boston College Law School. My research focuses on international trade law in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), with a specialist interest in international agricultural trade and investment. I have published widely on international agricultural trade and have spoken about my research to public and private sector audiences throughout the world. In 2020, I was appointed Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons International Trade Committee for its scrutiny of the UK’s post-Brexit trade agreements, and to the UK Department of International Trade’s Expert Stakeholder Group working on the UK trade policy position in the G7, G20, and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In 2017, I was Specialist Adviser to the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee for its Report on Brexit: Agriculture, and I have given expert evidence to the House of Commons’ International Trade, and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committees, the UK Trade and Agriculture Commission, and the Welsh National Assembly, External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee on several occasions. I was an invited expert for the European Commission, [DG DSANCO], Working Group on EU Food Safety in Nutrition in 2050; the joint DEFRA/UK Treasury,Balance of Competence Review: Agriculture evaluating the relationship between the EU and the UK; and to the Yorkshire Agricultural Society’s Farmers’ Scientist Network advising on the Implications of Brexit for Agriculture in the UK. I am also a member of the Editorial Board of the Journal of International Economic Law (OUP). My current research focuses on delivering sustainable trade policy in agrifood supply chains across the world:  I am leading a multidisciplinary, N8 consortium funding bid for UKRI on Sustainable Trade in Soya (SUSTSoy) and am a member of a Horizon Europe Consortium focusing on transforming food systems (including food trade) between countries in South East African countries and the EU (FoSTA-Health). 


  • N8 Chair in AgriFood Regulation
  • Associate Director for AgriFood Supply Chains, Global Food & Environment Institute,

Research interests

My research takes a distinctive and original approach to the study of international economic law. I challenge the orthodox view that the problems of international trade and investment will be resolved once a strong normative regime is created. I have argued in my published work instead that the area is so politically dynamic, that conventional ideas about how regulation works are inappropriate. The value and very idea of "regulation" is often neglected in existing scholarship, but lies at the centre of my work. Another strand to my work considers the way language works in international trade rules. This has led me to engage directly with debates about law and language, particularly the work of James Boyd White.

Recent Publications:

  • ‘Brexit as Trade Governance,’ (2019) Journal of World Investment and Trade (10,000 words, in press)
  • ‘Charting a New Course for the United Kingdom Agri-Food Sector-Health and Harmony: The Future for Food, Farming and the Environment in a Green Brexit,’ (with Professor Michael Cardwell, University of Leeds), (2018) 89(3) Political Quarterly 497-502.
  • ‘From Agriculture to Food Security: Embedded Liberalism and Stories of Regulatory Failure,’ in G. Moon & L. Toohey (eds), The Future of International Economic Integration: The Embedded Liberalism Compromise Revisited (2018) Cambridge University Press, Chapter 6, ISBN 978-1-316-51017-9, at 81-10.
  • ‘Natural Resources and Global Value Chains: What Role for the WTO?’ (2015) 11(2) International Journal of Law in Context 135-152.
  • ‘Food Security and Agri-Foreign Direct Investment in Weak States: Finding the Governance Gap to Avoid Land Grab,’ with Dr Christian HŠberli, World Trade Institute, Bern, Switzerland, (2014) 77(2) Modern Law Review 189-222.

Work on Brexit::

  • Speaker at GFS (University of Oxford) Policy Seminar held at DEFRA, to discuss outcomes of N8 Stakeholder seminar, December 2018 (with Dr Carrie Bradshaw & Professor Michael Cardwell, University of Leeds).
  • Co-organiser, N8 Stakeholder Workshop, ‘Agri-Food Supply Chains after Brexit,’ with Professor Mark Reed, Soil Science, University of Newcastle & Professor Michael Cardwell, University of Leeds.’ Funded by University of Newcastle. Workshop intended to scope out policy agenda for post-Brexit agri-food policy.(November 2018).
  • Interviewed by Radio 4 Today programme (4 June 2018) on impact of Leaked Government studies on the impact of a Hard Brexit on UK food supplies.
  • Invited to discuss impact of World Trade Organization rules on Scottish agricultural policy by practising lawyers and Scottish Parliament officials, June 2018.
  • Meeting to discuss impact of Brexit on Farmers: with Regional Director and Member of NFU Brexit Team at Yorkshire Regional Office of the National Farmers Union (NFU), June 2018.
  • Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) Brexit Working Group Report to DEFRA as part of the UK consultation on the future of farm policy after Brexit (see especially sections on International Trade & Fairness in the Supply Chain’):
  • Special Adviser, House of Lords: I acted as Special Adviser to the House of Lords EU Energy and Environment Sub-Committee on its Inquiry into BREXIT and Agriculture January-May 2017. I advised on witness selection; questions to be asked of witnesses; adviser to members of the Committee during oral hearings; advising of technical aspects of the report; advising on the draft report. January-May 2017.
  • Expert Witness, House of Commons, International Trade Committee: I gave evidence to the House of Commons International Trade Committee on the impact of BREXIT on UK agricultural trade policy, December 2016. Testimony cited in House of Commons, International Trade Committee, UK Trade Options Beyond 2019, HC 817 (2017), 10. 2016.
  • Expert Witness, Welsh National Assembly, External Affairs and Additional Legislation Committee. Requested to give expert evidence to the committee on the impact of international trade regulation (World Trade Organization Law) on the shape of UK agricultural policy following BREXIT, September 2016.
  • Member, Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) Expert Group Advising on Implications of BREXIT for British Agriculture. I was invited to take part in this group to advise on the impact of WTO law on possible scenarios of BREXIT on British agriculture. The group reported to the YAS in December 2015. The report’s findings were disseminated to farmers and other stakeholders at the Yorkshire Show in May 2016.
  • Expert witness, DEFRA & HM Treasury, Balance of Competence Review: Agriculture, London, UK: I gave expert evidence to representatives from DEFRA, the Treasury and the UK Foreign Office on the impact of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy and trade policy on international agricultural trade as part of the UK government’s review of the relationship between the EU and the UK. 9 experts were called to give evidence and I was one of only two lawyers. This work formed the basis of the referendum on the UK’s EU membership. I submitted the article on the WTO’s reforms on agriculture published in the ICLQ (with Michael Cardwell) as evidence to the call for evidence and was invited to submit additional written evidence to the Review. January 2014. Read the article.

Recent Public Lectures:

  • YAS Farm Scientist Network, Harrogate, UK: Update on my work on Brexit and UK agri-Food Policy. Speaking to farmers and land managers, February 2019.
  • Scottish Agricultural Association & WS Society, ‘Scottish Agriculture after Brexit: the WTO’s influence on policy development,’ May 2018.
  • Agricultural Economics Association, ‘UK Farm Policy After Brexit-Legal Challenges, Legal Solutions?’ University of Warwick, April 2018.
  • UCL, International Law Association (British Branch), ‘BREXIT as Trade Governance,’ November 2017.
  • East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, International Trade Club: ‘The WTO and UK Trade Policy After BREXIT,’ May 2017.
  • Food Ethics Council, Business Forum, ‘BREXIT: Agriculture, Food, Trade and Fair Access for All,’ November 2016.
  • Interdisciplinary Group on Food Security, Cambridge University Strategic Initiative in Global Food Security & the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences & Humanities, University of Cambridge: ‘Regulating Agricultural Subsidies to Produce Positive Effects for Food Security,’ March 2016.

Recent Conference Papers::

  • N8 Agri-Food, People, Health and Food Systems, Liverpool, Agriculture and Food Policy After Brexit: Regulatory Challenges,’ June 2018.
  • University of Tokyo, School of Social Science and Law, Japan, ‘Agricultural Standards in Global Value Chains: A Regulatory Challenge for the WTO?’ January 2018.
  • University of Nottingham, International Law Association, Regional lecture series, ‘Food Security and International Economic Law,’ November 2017.
  • Graduate Institute Geneva & Institute of International Economic Law, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA: Annual Conference on WTO Law, Geneva Switzerland: ‘BREXIT and the Legal Consequences for Global Trade Relations,’ June 2017.
  • School of Law, University of Lancaster: ‘Rethinking UK Agricultural Policy after BREXIT,’ May 2017.
  • Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, ‘UK Trade and Development Policy After BREXIT’: ‘The Implications of BREXIT on UK Development Policy: the problem of global food security,’ May 2017
  • Agricultural Law Association: Annual Conference: ‘WTO & UK Agri-Food Policy After BREXIT,’ London, March 2017.
  • Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, Pisa, Italy: ‘Agri-Food and Environmental Regulatory Agenda in Regional Trade Agreements’, ‘The Impact of BREXIT on Agriculture and Food,’ (with Michael Cardwell, University of Leeds) October 2016.
  • University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia, ‘The Embedded Liberalism Compromise Revisited: Twenty Years of Domestic Policy under WTO Law,’ ‘Food Security in WTO Law, Neo-Liberalism and the Embedded Liberalism Compromise,’ February 2016.
<h4>Research projects</h4> <p>Any research projects I'm currently working on will be listed below. Our list of all <a href="">research projects</a> allows you to view and search the full list of projects in the faculty.</p>


  • PhD
  • LLM in European and International Trade Law
  • LLB

Professional memberships

  • Society of International Economic Law
  • International Law Association
  • Higher Education Academy (formerly, Institute of Learning and Teaching,) Experienced Teacher

Student education

International Economic Law, Law of the World Trade Organization.


Research groups and institutes

  • Centre for Business Law and Practice
  • Centre for Law and Social Justice
<h4>Postgraduate research opportunities</h4> <p>The school welcomes enquiries from motivated and qualified applicants from all around the world who are interested in PhD study. Our <a href="">research opportunities</a> allow you to search for projects and scholarships.</p>