LL4B1      Half Unit
International Trade Law

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mona Paulsen


This course is available on the LLM (extended part-time), LLM (full-time), MSc in Development Studies and University of Pennsylvania Law School LLM Visiting Students. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

This course has a limited number of places and we cannot guarantee all students will get a place.


None. Students with no previous background in public international law may find it helpful to consider consulting a standard textbook such as M. Evans (ed.), International Law (OUP, 5th ed., 2018) or J. Crawford, Brownlie’s Principles of Public International Law (OUP, 9th ed., 2019).

Course content

This course provides a comprehensive overview of the multilateral trading system, with emphasis on the law governing international trade as established by the World Trade Organization (WTO). The course begins by introducing students to the economic and political theories of international trade and debates about the consequences of globalisation. The first part of the course is devoted to the historical and institutional aspects of the multilateral trading system. Students will discuss the creation of the WTO and its functions, membership, dispute settlement and decision-making processes. Further, students will analyse the procedural and institutional features of WTO dispute settlement, including remedies and compliance. Such exploration will be set in political context, with students discussing the challenges and backlash to the rules-based trade system, including the incapacitation of the Appellate Body at the end of 2020.

Following this introduction, students will analyse the core principles and substantive obligations of the multilateral trading system – through examination of the text of the WTO agreements and reports of the WTO panels and the Appellate Body. Students will have opportunity for informed discussions on the scope and breadth of the world trade rules, especially when balancing trade liberalisation against other sensitive areas of public interest. A core learning outcome for the course is for students to understand how the WTO interfaces with both Members’ domestic regulatory autonomy and the broader field of international law, especially today on questions of development, environmental protection, global health, digital technologies, or national security.

Students with deeper interests in development issues and/or the political economy of trade may complement this course with LL4AV: International Economic Law and Development.


This course will have two hours of teaching content each week in Michaelmas Term, either in the form of a two hour seminar or an online lecture and one hour class. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word formative essay during the course.

Indicative reading

Reading lists will be provided for each seminar on Moodle. The essential reading will generally include textbooks assignments to provide detailed explanations of doctrine, GATT and WTO legal rules, and WTO dispute settlement reports and decisions. In addition, the course will require reading of legal scholarship and engagement with economics, history, and international relations literature. Indicative textbooks include:  P. Van den Bossche & W. Zdouc, The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organization: Text, Cases and Materials (CUP, 4th ed., 2017); S. Lester et al., World Trade Law, Texts Materials, and Commentary (3rd ed.  2018); or M. Matsushita et al., The World Trade Organization: Law, Practice, and Policy (OUP, 3rd ed., 2017). Primary WTO source materials are available for download from the WTO website.


Exam (100%, duration: 2 hours, reading time: 15 minutes) in the summer exam period.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Law

Total students 2020/21: 36

Average class size 2020/21: 18

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills