LL4B1      Half Unit
International Trade Law

This information is for the 2023/24 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 demand is typically high. This may mean that you’re not able to get a place on this course.


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 (5th ed., 2018) or G. Hernandez, International Law (2019).

Course content

In this course, students will examine the core legal principles of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and appraise the most salient challenges confronting the multilateral trading system. This course focuses on international trade agreements and covers regional and bilateral trade agreements but strongly emphasises the WTO agreements.

Students will begin by exploring various theories about globalisation and the rationale for open markets. Students will evaluate why states trade with each other and the economic issues central to understanding the legal aspects of the multilateral trading system. After that, we examine the multilateral trading system’s legal, economic, and political foundations, including the post-war General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). Throughout the course, students will draw upon the theory and practice of the multilateral trading system to weigh questions concerning the role of the state and the debate over trade, development, and discrimination.

The central aim of the course is for students to gain a solid theoretical understanding of WTO principles and practices, to gain the skills to evaluate WTO rules, and to debate the future of the multilateral trading system. Students will examine the most recent developments in international trade agreements and jurisprudence. To do so, students explore WTO rules in context, with opportunities to link topics to real-life events and contemporary challenges. In addition, students will investigate the evolving roles of the WTO, including its rulemaking, dispute settlement, and deliberative functions. By the end of the course, students should be able to develop reasoned arguments about the practice of the multilateral trading system and consider emerging cross-cutting issues respecting trade and security, digitalisation, climate action, and other resilience and financing challenges.

Students with deeper interests in development issues and 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 Winter Term and two additional hours in the Spring Term. There will be a Reading Week in Week 6 of Winter Term.

Formative coursework

One 2,000 word formative essay during the course.

Indicative reading

Reading assignments are provided for each seminar on Moodle and draw from various primary and secondary source materials, accompanied by reading guides and handouts to enhance student participatory learning. Indicative reading includes assigned textbook chapters, relevant WTO rules, and extracts from WTO dispute settlement reports. Additionally, students will be able to engage in academic and policy debates based on various cross-disciplinary materials, including guest speakers, videos, podcasts, and academic scholarship.

There is no singular textbook for the course. Every effort is made to provide online reading assignments to enhance accessibility. Indicative textbooks include P. Van den Bossche & W. Zdouc, The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organization: Text, Cases and Materials (5th ed., 2021); S. Lester et al., World Trade Law, Texts Materials, and Commentary (3rd ed.  2018); and R. Howse et al., The Regulation of International Trade (4th ed., 2013).

Primary WTO source materials are available for download from the WTO’s website.


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

Key facts

Department: Law School

Total students 2022/23: 29

Average class size 2022/23: 29

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

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

  • Communication
  • Specialist skills