IR468      Half Unit
The Political Economy of Trade

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr. Marta Soprana


This course is available on the MSc in International Affairs (LSE and Peking University), MSc in International Political Economy, MSc in International Political Economy (LSE and Sciences Po), MSc in International Political Economy (Research) and MSc in Political Science (Political Science and Political Economy). This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All students are required to obtain permission from the Teacher Responsible by completing the online application form linked to course selection on LSE for You. Admission is not guaranteed.

This course has a limited number of places (it is controlled access) and demand is typically high.

Course content

The course explores the economic and political factors shaping international trade policy and the role of  international institutional arrangements underpinning world trade, with a focus on the World Trade Organization (WTO). It  covers the nature of the global trading system, the ideational factors that have shaped and continue to shape trade policy, some of the core analytical models that help with our understanding of the political economy of trade, the nature of trade and investment in the 21st century, including the impact of the growth of global supply chains on the political economy of trade and investment, and the domestic and international institutional frameworks within which trade and investment policy are conducted. The course also focuses on discussing key topics in current international trade negotiations, investigating the links between trade and development, and addressing issues related to sustainable trade and fair trade. Attention is also dedicated to examining growing trends towards the use of preferential and plurilateral trade agreements rather than multilateral approaches to trade negotiations, and discussing the current crisis in the world trading system and the sources of international trade frictions.


10 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the WT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay in the WT.

The formative essay is 2,000 words. 

Indicative reading

  • Heydon. K and Woolcock. S (eds) (2012) The Ashgate Research Companion to International Trade Policy, HF 1379 A 82: e-book and hard copies available.
  • Hoekman. B and Kosteki. (2009) The Political Economy of the World Trading System HF 1359 H69 e-book available but reasonably price in paperback so something to purchase.
  • Martin. L (ed) (2014) Oxford Handbook of The Political Economy of International Trade, available as an e-book.


Take-home assessment (100%) in the ST.

Student performance results

(2019/20 - 2021/22 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 17.9
Merit 63
Pass 17.9
Fail 1.2

Key facts

Department: International Relations

Total students 2022/23: 58

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Commercial awareness
  • Specialist skills