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Unit information: World Trade Law in 2018/19

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Unit name World Trade Law
Unit code LAWDM0115
Credit points 30
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Gammage
Open unit status Not open



There are no co-requisites for this course. However, students may find it beneficial to study the International Law of Trade and Aid module alongside the World Trading System module and should be encouraged to do so (although this is not a co-requisite).

School/department University of Bristol Law School
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law


The objective of this course is to provide an introduction into the multilateral trading system, and the relationship between trade and development. The institutional framework of the treaty scheme and a number of the main covered agreements of the WTO including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Dispute Settlement, and the agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property (TRIPS), will be examined. Particular attention will be paid to the WTO Dispute Settlement procedures and sanctions that may be taken against non-compliant member states. Specific issues will be examined and questioned, in particular, whether ‘regionalism’ goes against the philosophy of free trade, whether trade should be free or fair (or are both ideals possible) and whether the substantive WTO rules and dispute settlement mechanisms are in practice fair to poorer lesser developed countries. The increasing use of bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, such as the Economic Partnership Agreements between the EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific countries and Trans-Pacific FTA, will be examined and their compatibility with the principles of the WTO system will be assessed. Students will also understand the relevance of WTO law in addressing environmental disputes in a development context, protection of cultural interests, technology, and licensing of intellectual property rights, in particular the treatment of pharmaceutical products. Coming from a variety of jurisdictions, students will be expected to offer comparative insights to the group.

Intended learning outcomes

The learning objectives of this course would be for students to gain an understanding of the major international economic institution and its place in the international order. Students will learn about international economic law and its growing importance as a sub-branch of international law. By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Understand the role of the WTO within the international order,
  • Interpret and analyse the legal texts of the WTO,
  • Explain the different legal rules relating to different aspects of trade e.g. goods, services, investment etc.
  • Recognise the relevance of the WTO to developing countries, and the special position of developing countries in the global economy.
  • Critically reflect upon the role of the WTO in shaping the global economic order.

Teaching details

The contact hours for this unit will be 30 hours. This will usually take the form of: 8 lectures, 10 two-hour seminars and 2 assessment preparation and feedback sessions.

Assessment Details

Summative: 2 x 3000 word essays (50% each). Both assessments will assess all of the Intended Learning Outcomes for this unit in the context of topics selected by the examiners.

Formative: students should do one formative assessment (this will usually be 1 x 1500 word essay).

Reading and References

These textbooks provide the core reading for the entire course. Students will be directed to online sources, journals articles and cases where relevant to supplement the core reading. Both copies of the textbook are available in the library.

  1. Peter van den Bossche and Werner Zdouc, The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organization: Text, Cases and Materials, Third Edition (Cambridge University Press, 2013); and/or
  2. M. Matsushita et al, The World Trade Organization, Third Edition (Oxford University Press, 2015).