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Get to Know Iza Camarillo

Public Citizen News / May-June 2024

As research director for Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch team, Iza Camarillo provides the team with in-depth information on a wide range of trade and globalization issues. Before joining Public Citizen, Camarillo worked at Sidley Austin’s Global Arbitration, Trade, and Advocacy practice in Washington, D.C., where she represented Latin American governments in investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) suits launched by corporations. She also practiced law in Mexico before and during the renegotiation of NAFTA, working on global supply chain compliance and unfair trade practices.

Camarillo earned her law degree from the Duke University School of Law, where she specialized in international and comparative law. She also received a master of laws degree from Georgetown University Law Center in international business and economic law and a certificate in World Trade Organization and international trade studies. While at Georgetown Law, she was selected as a Lloyd N. Cutler Fellow for the 2021 Salzburg Seminar for her research on sustainable development in international trade, focused on supply chain transparency and corporate responsibility of consumer protection.

My advocacy efforts on behalf of Latin American governments exiting ISDS and the reports I’ve drafted to educate American lawmakers on the harms caused to local communities by ISDS have been my favorite aspects of the work I have done at Global Trade Watch,” reflects Camarillo. Her work has made a tangible difference: earlier this year, Honduras exited from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes Convention, Ecuador repealed a referendum to reinstate its ICSID membership, and ISDS even became a trending topic in Congress. 

Q: You previously practiced law in Mexico before and during the re-negotiation of NAFTA. What was that like?

I worked as an international trade lawyer in Monterrey, Mexico, before and during the renegotiation of NAFTA. Monterrey is very close to the Texas border, and I worked with many of the region’s manufacturing plants, assessing their compliance with international standards in cross-border supply chains. Later, I joined international law firms in D.C., working on international trade issues and representing Latin American governments in Investor-State Dispute Settlement arbitration. 

Q: What do you enjoy doing in your free time?

I like hanging out with my dog, Mozzy, reading mystery novels, and painting. 

Q: Can you walk us through a typical work day?

Research, research, and more research! Partly kidding…a typical day for me involves talking to partners around the world about egregious ISDS cases and keeping an eye on diverse trade topics as they come up.

Q: How did you become involved with Public Citizen?

I was a fan of Public Citizen for years, but Global Trade Watch’s stance against the World Trade Organization and strong advocacy efforts during the pandemic regarding global access to vaccines solidified my resolve to join the team. 

Q: What advice would you give to someone starting out? 

Don’t be discouraged if no one in the room looks like you or walked the same path as you. Those are the rooms you most need to take up space in. 

Q: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about international arbitration?

That it’s a good thing! ISDS is often touted as a neutral and stable way to settle disagreements between corporations and governments. In reality, it is a form of institutionalized colonialism that permits corporations (typically from the Global North) to exert dominance over governments’ sovereignty and meddle with their right to regulate policies for the public good. Global South countries are disproportionately targeted by ISDS cases, and the only beneficiaries are the corporations lining their pockets with taxpayer dollars and the legal professionals who are paid millions to participate.