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Our economy is globalized, with trade, investment, finance and people continuously flowing across borders, facing varying obstacles in the process. We are each – as producers, consumers, investors, employees – in various ways entangled in, and dependent on, that globalized economy, whether reaping its benefits or suffering its harms. This module gives students an opportunity to examine the international legal frameworks and institutions that underpin, support and govern this global economy, with a particular focus on the rules for trade. By examining international economic law in its political, economic and historical context, the module seeks to understand the functions, the impact, and the limits, of the public international law governing international trade, while providing students with a comprehensive introduction to the procedural and substantive law of the multilateral trade regime.
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is the most important institution governing trade in the global economy. We will introduce the legal system of the WTO, including both the core principles of world trade law and the institutional structures through which that law is administered. As the trade regime has come under sustained attack in recent years, from both cosmopolitans and nationalists, we will examine the reasons for that challenge, and try to evaluate some of the criticisms that have been advanced, including considering the relationships between (amongst others) trade, economic development, labor rights, poverty, and the environment. We will consider the role of bilateral and regional trade agreements in supplementing this multilateral system, including asking why states choose to pursue these different paths towards liberalization, how the bilateral and multilateral systems interact, and how bilateral trade agreements can address specific challenges, including the post-Brexit relationship between the UK and the EU. We will examine how international economic law has tried to balance the need for stability, predictability and consistency in a globalized economy with the sovereignty of states and their desire for autonomy over their economic policy and domestic regulation.
Specific topics covered may include:
1. The history and theory of trade liberalization;
2. The WTO’s organizational structure, negotiation and dispute settlement mechanisms;
3. Core disciplines on border measures and discrimination;
4. Balancing trade liberalization and legitimate regulatory purposes including public health, labour rights and environmental protection;
5. The relationship between trade, law, and economic development;
6. WTO rules on subsidies, anti-dumping and safeguards;
7. Regulating trade in services and intellectual property;
8. The relationship between multilateral and regional trade regimes.
Any aspect of this module may be changed in any given academic year, subject to the discretion of the module lecturer.