Module code: LAWM138

Module Overview

This module is intended to introduce students to the law of the World Trade Organization, with a specific focus on certain agreements (GATT, GATS, TBT, SPS and TRIPS). The analysis of the WTO legal regime will be systematically integrated with reference to the issues of globalization, free trade, protection of non-economic values and human rights.

The Module is designed to fit in the International Commercial Law curriculum, as it deals with a subject that is precisely concerned with international trade, and provides an international law to a subject that is otherwise studied from the private international law point of view.

Module provider

School of Law

Module Leader

DU Ming (Schl of Law)

Number of Credits: 15

ECTS Credits: 7.5

Framework: FHEQ Level 7

JACs code: M221

Module cap (Maximum number of students): N/A

Module Availability

Semester 2

Prerequisites / Co-requisites


Module content

Indicative content includes:

  • The economic rationale of trade liberalization;

  • An analysis of globalization’s implications on trade: what is the purpose of embedded liberalism, and how can liberalization be regulated and governed;

  • A synthetic historical account of the GATT and the WTO, with reference to the Bretton Woods package;

  • WTO as an institution: legislative and executive bodies, the policy agenda, the Doha round and the path forward;

  • Dispute settlement, a description of the Dispute Settlement Understanding and an analysis of the functioning and activity of Panels and Appellate Body

  • The main rules of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS);

  • The system of general exceptions of GATT Art. XX and GATS Art. XIV;

  • The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and the issues arising from its application, the role of waivers;

  • The rules relating to technical barriers to trade (TBT) and sanitary and phytosanitary measures (SPS), the relationship between international standards and the WTO regime;

  • The regulation of dumping and the relationship with dumping national agencies;

  • The role of non-economic values and Human Rights in the context of WTO law.

Assessment pattern

Assessment type Unit of assessment Weighting
Coursework 3,000 WORD COURSEWORK 100

Alternative Assessment


Assessment Strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the module outcomes. In particular, it aims at testing the students’ ability to use the knowledge acquired in a critical way. The questions of the assignment will relate to the topics discussed in class. To obtain a high mark, students will be expected to structure their answer non-descriptively, rely on primary and secondary sources, refer to the doctrinal debates and the reading materials, as well as exercise independent thinking. Questions can cover both essay questions and problem-based questions.

Thus, the summative assessment for this module consists of the writing of a 3.000-word coursework.

The students will choose to answer one among a range of questions, both of essay-like nature or problem questions.

The marking shall be carried out in compliance with the grade descriptors included in the Handbook and approved by the Faculty. They are designed to reward critical analysis, solidity of research, clarity of structure and writing, substantive correctness and originality, rigorous style and referencing.

A mark on the dissertation. The mark will be agreed between two markers of the School’s staff. The dissertation can be submitted to the scrutiny of an external examiner.

Formative assessment and feedback

Approximately half-way through the module, students will have a chance to write a formative coursework (1.500 words). The purpose of the formative assessment is to receive individual feedback on a preparatory exercise to the summative assessment, so as to achieve familiarity with the topics of the module and the methods of coursework-writing.

Module aims

  • To provide an understanding of the theoretical foundations of the liberalisation of trade at the international and regional level;
  • To provide an introduction to the application of international norms relating to international trade, with a close focus on the treaty text and the case-law;
  • To enable students to discuss critically the applicable rules and the factual issues to which they apply, with reference to ongoing and potential trade disputes;
  • To introduce students to key issues in the interplay between trade regulations and other societal values or political concerns of WTO member States;
  • To provide students with an introduction to inter-State treaty-based litigation, and to litigation techniques used in international legal proceedings.

Learning outcomes

Attributes Developed
001 To place analysis of trade law in a broader normative framework, and appreciate legal and policy spillovers across different normative regimes KC
002 To grasp and examine contemporary debates about trade and non-trade values, such as environment, labour protection, and development KT
003 To have a fair command of the WTO norms KC
004 To evaluate WTO law’s function and effects in domestic legal systems KC
005 To read and understand rapidly very long decisions, and distinguish the parts thereof that contain the decisive legal and factual determinations PT
006 To appreciate the legal dynamics of inter-State litigation, weighing the arguments and the position of the disputing parties and the respective interests PT

Attributes Developed

C - Cognitive/analytical

K - Subject knowledge

T - Transferable skills

P - Professional/Practical skills

Overall student workload

Methods of Teaching / Learning

The learning and teaching strategy is designed to:

Improve and support students’ studying skills, through intensive exposure to primary sources and discussion in class. Increase students’ awareness of the relevance of WTO law issues to modern society and world politics.

Encourage and assess (see below) students’ knowledge of the basics of WTO law, with additional readings and case-studies for the discussion in class and the presentation. Seminars will be based on the students’ preparation and readiness to report and discuss the materials. The tutor’s aim will be that of moderating a discussion and training the critical thinking of the students.

The learning and teaching methods include:

10 2-hour seminars.

Each seminar will be divided in two parts: in the first part the lecturer will revise and explain the subject, in the second part (30’) 2/3 students will be expected to give a presentation relating to some advanced aspects of the topic of the day, or to form groups to discuss specific aspects of additional materials. Students will be expected to come prepared for the seminar and engage actively in discussions and group-work on new questions. Students will be provided with default reading materials, but different groups of them will prepare additional materials, for the purpose of in-class discussion.

Even though students are expected to learn autonomously using the assigned readings, the seminars are structured in a way to ensure that learning is consolidated and possible doubts are tackled and solved. Discussion and debate are encouraged, both on the general subject and the specific ones forming the subject of student presentations.

Indicated Lecture Hours (which may also include seminars, tutorials, workshops and other contact time) are approximate and may include in-class tests where one or more of these are an assessment on the module. In-class tests are scheduled/organised separately to taught content and will be published on to student personal timetables, where they apply to taken modules, as soon as they are finalised by central administration. This will usually be after the initial publication of the teaching timetable for the relevant semester.

Reading list


Programmes this module appears in

Programme Semester Classification Qualifying conditions
Public Affairs MSc 2 Optional A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module
International Commercial Law LLM 2 Compulsory A weighted aggregate mark of 50% is required to pass the module

Please note that the information detailed within this record is accurate at the time of publishing and may be subject to change. This record contains information for the most up to date version of the programme / module for the 2018/9 academic year.