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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23

Department: Law

LAW40730: International Trade Law & Policy

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Not available in 2021/22


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The module aims to give students a systematic understanding of:
  • Key aspects in the field of international trade law, broadly defined, and enable them to engage critically with the subject and its significance.
  • The analysis of the history of the world trading system and the political and economic principles underpinning its development will form the context of study.
  • The analysis of the institutional framework governing international economic relations with an emphasis on the World Trade Organisation (WTO), its functions and system of dispute settlement will provide the framework. Within this context and framework students are expected to obtain detailed knowledge of specific aspects of the subject, in particular, the principles and rules governing international economic relations under the WTO system; the rules governing the settlement of disputes and the jurisprudence of the dispute settlement body of the WTO; the avenues available to private traders to pursue their interests in the world trading system.
  • This module also aims to contextualise international trade law in a rapidly changing international economic order.
  • Crucially, students will be exposed to the current challenges of the international trade system, including the role of China, the proliferation of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and the negotiation of mega-regional trade agreements and the emergence of new geoeconomic international trade order.


  • The content of the module will typically be:
  • A) Context and Framework
  • Economic policy and the evolution of the international economic order
  • Institutional and legal aspects of the international economic order
  • The GATT system: Evolution and principles
  • The World Trade Organisation: Institutional aspects
  • The World Trade Organisation: Dispute Settlement
  • B) Substantive Issues
  • Trade in Goods: the Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment and National Treatment
  • Trade in Goods: the Exceptions
  • Rules on Non-Tariff trade barriers: the TBT and the SPS Agreement
  • The Rules on Unfair Trade: Antidumping and Countervailing Duties
  • The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
  • The Agreement on Trade-Related aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs)
  • The Systematic Derogations of the WTO System: Free Trade Agreements and Mega-Regionals
  • C) New Issues in the World Trading System
  • The Role of China
  • Digital trade
  • New trade policies and the emergence of new geoeconomic trade order
  • Reforming the World Trade Organization

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will develop:
  • Knowledge of important elements of the history of the world trading and tax system;
  • An advanced understanding of the political and economic principles underpinning the development of the world trading and tax system;
  • Ability to identify the role and functions of the World Trade Organisation, and knowledge of the modus operandi of the WTO's dispute settlement system;
  • Knowledge of the substantive WTO rules governing international economic relations including the jurisprudence of the WTO dispute settlement body;
  • Ability to identify the practical avenues available to individuals to pursue their interests in the world trading system;
  • Ability to comprehend the increasing importance of FTAs;
  • Ability to understand the new challenges of the world trade system.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will develop:
  • Ability to accurately and effectively describe the historical, economic and political underpinnings of the world trading system;
  • Ability to identify the WTO and FTA rules applicable in a given case;
  • Ability to analyse the dispute settlement and provisions applicable in a given case;
  • Ability to advise on the practical ways available to private traders to defend their interests in the WTO;
  • Ability to apply their theoretical knowledge in practice.
Key Skills:
  • Students will develop:
  • Ability to retrieve and utilise sources in the field of international trade law;
  • Ability to identify resources on their own initiative;
  • Oral communication skills;
  • Ability to be self-reliant and take responsibility for their own learning.

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Teaching will be delivered in the form of seminars. A significant amount of seminar based contact time reflects the advanced level of the course, and will provide a forum for students to utilise and develop knowledge gained through set preliminary reading for each topic.
  • Durham's VLE will be used to enhance the course. In particular, a discussion board will be used to aid comprehension and foster a sense of community outside of the classroom.
  • The summative assessment will be in the form of one essay on areas of international trade law which the students will independently research and analyse.
  • Feedback on formative and summative assessment will be provided in accordance with Law School feedback policies

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 15 Weekly 2 hours 30
Preparation and Reading 270
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
summative essay 6,000 words 100% Y

Formative Assessment:

Students will have the opportunity to submit two formative essays . They may take the form of either an essay or a problem-based question. Students will receive written feedback well before the submission date for the summative essay, and may also discuss their feedback with the lecturer on an appointment basis.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University