Photo, Arnoud Willems

Arnoud Willems

Baker & McKenzie CVBA/SCRL


Arnoud Willems is a partner in the International Commercial & Trade Practice Group in the Brussels office. He joined Baker McKenzie in 2022. He has an extensive network, built over 25 years as a trusted advisor of entrepreneurs, executives, and diplomats. Arnoud has a deep understanding of how trade rules shape global flows of capital, investment, goods, technology, and services.

Practice Focus

Arnoud helps clients to navigate through complex rules and in their decision-making processes, manage their risks, become more successful and proactive in their long-term planning and strategy. He strives to make legal rules understandable for company decision makers, look for practical solutions, break new ground, close legal gaps, getting regulators to adapt or clarify rules in order to make them more useful, predictable, and uniform, and, where possible, create new rules.

Arnoud advises clients on all aspects of trade and customs procedures and methodologies, as well as on competitiveness, the application of WTO and other trade rules to the digital, technology, green, metals, chemicals, pharma, and energy sectors. This results in removing trade barriers, often unlocking new markets and profits, decreasing costs, decreasing risks, and improving compliance.

Representative Legal Matters

Trade defence (anti-dumping, anti-subsidy / countervailing, safeguards measures)

Arnoud helped complainants, respondents, trade associations, governments, importers and users in more than 100 high profile cases. He also worked on several third county cases like Russia, China, Türkiye, and assisted with crafting WTO arguments. Already in 2010 one client referred to Arnoud as "the perfect anti-dumping payer's bulldog" (The Legal 500 EMEA).

  • Developing an anti-subsidy risk assessment incl. a compliance manual for a global nuclear energy company, incl. on export credit support
  • Results: obtain a suspension of duties for an FTSE 100 mining company; avoid duties entirely for a Fortune 50 chemical company; obtain price-undertakings for solar panel clients, obtain product exclusions for several other exporting producers, obtain a duty reimbursement for a major silicon metal importer; obtain an exemption certificate for anti-circumvention duties for a major electronics producer
  • Setting up an anti-dumping compliance program, including assistance in monitoring potential dumping margins for a global raw materials company
  • Assisting a Russian company on avoiding electricity cost adjustments in the dumping calculation, significantly lowering its duty


Broad experience in advising clients on EU customs issues, including entry, classification, valuation, origin, tariff suspensions, authorisations, AEO, audits, and refund/remissions. A key aspect of his practice concerns involving EU institutions to help companies unlocking customs issues in an EU Member State, or assisting to resolve differences in approach between various EU Member States.

  • Assist several multinationals in different EU Member States to defend processing authorizations for goods subject to trade policy measures
  • Help several technology and metals companies with the classification of their products, including through Binding Tariff Information (rulings)
  • Assist a major automotive company with a pan-EU valuation investigation
  • Obtain significant duty refunds for a major apparel importer based on a retroactive application of origin as laid down in the EU-Vietnam FTA
  • Obtain interests from customs over refunded anti-dumping duties
  • Help a global technology producer accused of customs fraud to prove its position and avoid any duties and fines

Trade agreements (market access & regulatory barriers)

Arnoud helps to leverage the market access and enforcement tools provided by trade rules laid down in the WTO, free trade, investment, and hundreds of other agreements. With these tools Arnoud has helped companies to address key trade and regulatory barriers affecting their ability to move, sell, and protect goods, services and intellectual property across borders.

  • Assist a Fortune 100 technology company to develop a policy to manage changes in the EU political landscape such as the rise of China, increased protectionism, and strategic autonomy (tariffs autonomy, enforcement, sanctions, subsidies, raw material access, sustainability due diligence, investment screening
  • Help an association to use the WTO rules to avoid national legislation that would harm its members

Trade policy and negotiations

Arnoud assists companies, associations, and governments with trade agreements including negotiations and making them concrete.

  • Assist a trade association to better protect the intellectual property of its members globally through the use of trade agreements incl. by finding best practices and a win-win solution for all stakeholders, navigating all political sensitivities
  • Help a government body to use trade agreements strategically to benefit the financial and services sectors, including how to shape digital rules, and which rules it should try to get into trade agreements

Trade controls (economic sanctions, export control, foreign direct investment control)

Arnoud helps companies to develop and implement compliance programs, conduct internal audits, and against enforcement actions.

  • Help a global construction company to review its transactions with countries on the economic sanctions list
  • Assist another global construction company to set-up a global compliance and training program


Arnoud appears regularly before administrative bodies, courts in various EU Member States, and the European Courts. Often his cases involved pan-European strategies with simultaneous litigation is several countries.

Since 1995, Arnoud has been a leading advocate of companies challenging EU anti-dumping regulations, with an exceptional success rate in such cases before the European Courts, enabling his clients to obtain significant duty refunds.

Successes include the following ground-breaking cases:

  • Wortmann, Case C-365/15 (interest in customs cases)
  • AETMD, Case T-460/14 (sweetcorn)
  • Clark, Cases C-659/13 (footwear)
  • Brosmann, Cases T-401/06 and C-249/10P
  • ENRC, Case T-107/08 (silico-manganese)
  • Whirlpool Europe, Case T-314/06 (refrigerators)
  • ASMP, Case T-107/04 and T-151/06 (silicon)
  • Gul-Ahmed, Case T-199/04 (bed linen)
  • Deichmann, Case C256/16 (footwear)
  • Eurobolt e.a., Case T-479/20, under appeal in C-517/22P (fasteners)

These cases have served to clarify issues such as causation analysis, remissions and adjustments, which subsequently resulted in a change of the underlying legislation.

Professional Honors

Arnoud's leadership in international trade is widely recognized. He is consistently ranked as one of the EU's top international trade and customs lawyers.

  • In 2020 and 2021, Lexology honored Arnoud with its "Client Choice Award" for Trade and Customs.
  • Recognized by Chambers for International Trade/WTO since 2008, clients have been quoted praising him as "a born strategist. In Chambers Europe and Global 2022, a client describes him as "tenacious and strategic, well informed and respected, and pleasant to work with," adding that he "has obtained good results." The client further enthuses: "He has also built a phenomenal team." He masterminds all details and makes cases look simple and presents them convincingly. Perhaps most importantly, he delivers results" (Chambers Global 2021). Arnoud has also been recognized by Chambers Europe 2021, with clients in the 2020 edition describing him as "visionary with respect to the next legal trends and what companies will need. He knows what to do before we even realise it." In the 2019 edition, clients describe him as a "strategic mastermind," and "tenacious and effective with respect to results" (Chambers Europe 2019); a "strategic and creative mind and the kind of person who spots issues and provides solutions before they happen" (Chambers Europe 2018); "a very easy person to sit down and come to a conclusion with" (Chambers Europe 2016); as well as being "wonderful with clients and has unparalleled knowledge of the WTO" (Chambers Europe 2017).
  • He has also been recognized in Who’s Who Legal 2021 for Trade and Customs, and for economic sanctions, with market sources praising him as "a strategic mastermind" who "knows everything about international trade law." The 2020 edition describes him as "a rock when it comes to trade and customs work," and "a leading practitioner who is well respected for his deep customs experience."
  • Arnoud has also been recognized in Best Lawyers in Belgium since 2013.
  • Arnoud was mentioned in the Financial Time Innovative Lawyers list in 2017 for his EU court litigation work.
  • In 2018, Legal 500 admitted Arnoud to its Legal Hall of Fame for being among the top ten best EU Trade lawyers from 2007 to 2018.
  • Recognized by WorldECR as one of the top EU lawyers for economic sanctions and export controls, especially for the technology and finance sectors since 2014.

Professional Associations and Memberships

  • Senior Fellow of the Asian Institute of International Financial Law (AIIFL), together with Professor Mitsuo Matsushita and Stuart Harbinson, amongst others former ambassador of Hong Kong to the WTO
  • Former President of the Rotary Club Tervuren (Brussels)
  • Guest lecturer at various Universities; e.g. the University of Maastricht, the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Hong Kong University Law School
  • Commission on Customs and Trade Facilitation of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris
  • Commission on Trade and Investment Policy of the International Chamber of Commerce in Paris
  • International Law Association
  • International Bar Association (Trade Committee)


  • Brussels~Belgium (2001)


  • University of Leiden (Law Degree) (1992)


  • Dutch
  • English
  • Towards a strategic partnership – strengthening trade relations between the GCC and the EU, co-authored, July edition of GPCA’s Insight Express.
  • The EU’s ‘Greened’ Injury Margin: a Closer Look at Law and Practice, International Trade Law and Regulation, co-authored, Issue 3 © 2022 Thomson Reuters and Contributors, July 2022
  • Inward Processing in EU Anti-Dumping Proceedings, co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, Volume 17, Issue 6 (Wolters Kluwer), May 2022
  • "Helping Sustainable Trade: Ways to ‘Green’ the Harmonized System," Center for European Policy Studies (CEPS), co-authored , January 2021
  • Hoe kan het dat douaneautoriteiten lijdzaam toekijken hoe de Commissie hun bevoegdheden opslorpt? co-authored, Weekblad Fiscaal Recht (WFR 2020/163) · Sep 24, 2020
  • "Hurdles to Litigating Trade Defence Measures Before the EU Courts," co-authored, Journal of World Trade, December 2020
  • "The EU Report on Significant Distortions in Russia: A Return to the 1990s Non-market Economy Status for Russia?" co-authored, Eurasian Metals, December 2020
  • "Brave New World for EU Trade Defense Policy?," Borderlex, February 10, 2020
  • "Effect of and Compliance with Judgments of the Court of Justice of the European Union: The Case of Trade Defence Measures," co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, February 2020
  • "Defeating Economic Sanctions in the EU: A Strategic Analysis of Litigation Options," co-authored, International Trade Law & Regulation, January 2020
  • "Of Binding Provisions and Trust Marks; Roadmap to a Global Legal Framework for the Digital Economy," co-authored, Legal Issues of Economic Integration, Kluwer Law International, June 2019
  • "Accountability in Anti-Dumping — The Silent Death of Lisbon," co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, June 2019
  • "Levelling EU-Turkey Trade: An Assessment of the Asymmetrical Customs Union between the European Union and Turkey," co-authored, International Trade Law and Regulation, April 2019
  • "The limits of FTAs in the Chemical Sector: Is a Sector Agreement the Solution?" co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, Kluwer Law International, April 2019
  • "The Unhappy Marriage of Customs and Anti-Dumping Legislation: Tensions Relating to Product Description and Origin," co-authored, Legal Issues of Economic Integration, Kluwer Law International, 2018
  • "Determination of Customs Value and Warranties: Lessons from the Recent Case Law of the European Court of Justice," co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, Kluwer Law International, 2018
  • "Unlocking overseas insurance markets," co-authored, Insurance Day, January 11, 2017
  • "Can steel survive protectionism?," The Mining Journal, July 7, 2016
  • "Customs Sanctions Harmonization in Europe: Why the Commission Is Taking the Wrong Approach," co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, July 2016
  • "What’s Wrong With EU Anti-Circumvention Rules and How to Fix it," co-authored with Dr. Bregt Natens, Journal of International Economic Law, May 2016
  • "Reconciling Rules of Origin and Global Value Chains: The Case for Reform," Journal of International Economic Law, May 2015
  • "Changes in the Treatment of Trademark Royalties in EU Customs Law: The Example of 3D Printing," co-authored, Global Trade and Customs Journal, Kluwer Law International, Volume 10, Issue 5, 2015
  • "The EU 2030 Climate and Energy Framework – Does It Harm Russian Companies?," Eurasian Metals Bulletin, February 2015
  • "OECD Services Trade Restrictiveness Index - Unlocking the potential at last," Mlex Report, September 2014
  • "Export Restrictions on Waste: Barrier to Trade or Tool for Harmonisation?," co-authored, International Trade Law & Regulation, Volume 20, Issue 3, 2014
  • "WTO rules to enforce energy transit and influence the transit fee," co-authored, European Energy Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, April 2014
  • "Market Economy Treatment (MET) in the Footwear case: Tackling unfair competition unfairly?," co-authored, 15:4 International Trade Law and Regulation, July/August 2009
  • "Unbundling as a Defense Mechanism against Russia: Is the EU Missing the Point?," co-authored, EU-Russia Energy Relations – Legal and Policy Issues, Euroconfidentiel & OGEL joint publication, December 2009


  • Arnoud speaks widely on trade topics, especially concerning the impact of political and economic developments and changes in the law on industry: e.g. the trade wars, trade policy, EU-China relations, the EU's new trade tool box, the sense and non-sense to litigate, how to manage trade compliance in the supply chain, anti-dumping, subsidies, quota, climate change, economic sanctions, the WTO and other trade agreements.
  • Organisations that regularly ask Arnoud's contributions are CRU, Fastmarkets, Argus Media / Metal Pages, MM Steel Club, and various trade associations.