SOAS University of London

School of Law

World Trade Organisation Law

Module Code:
15PLAH038 - Not running in 2021/22

This module explores the technical aspects of the institutional and legal structure of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime as it applies to trade in goods and services, and trade-related aspects or intellectual property and investment. It investigates ‘linkages’ and conflicts between the economic values and interests associated with trade, and other values and interests such as the protection of the environment and health or human rights and development. The module intersects with other modules by exploring, and giving concrete examples of, themes that recur throughout international, economic, environmental and development law. It also offers a deep understanding of a major international economic institution: the WTO.  The approach is practical (drawing on real life examples) critical (highlighting both the merits and limitations) and contemporary.  

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • To consider and compare the economic theory, versus social and political reality, in which trade occurs and is regulated;
  • To gain an understanding of the basic structure of the WTO institutions and texts, especially the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade GATT including the Agreement on Trade Related Investment Measures; the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS); the Agreement on Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs); and their relationship with other institutions, states and laws;
  • To examine the institutions, procedures and principles governing the settlement of trade disputes at the WTO including the remedies available under the Dispute Settlement Mechanism,  their enforcement, and barriers to access to justice for developing and new Member States;
  • To understand the impact of WTO rules and processes on the environment, human rights and development.

At the end of the module a student should be able to demonstrate the ability to:

  • Evaluate the place of international trade rules within the international legal and political system;
  • Critically assess the tension between law, economics and politics in an international regulatory environment;
  • Evaluate the role of WTO law within its members’ domestic legal systems;
  • Engage in current debates as to the constitution, dynamics and direction of the global economy.

Method of assessment

  • Coursework: 100% (6000 words)

Suggested reading

  • M. Trebilcock and R.Howse The Regulation of International Trade (London, Routledge, 4th  ed, 2013)
  • S. Lester and B. Mercurio with A. Davies and K. Leitner World Trade Law: Text Materials and Commentary (Oxford, Hart Publishing, 2nd ed, 2012)
  • Bernard Hoekman and Michael Kostecki The Political Economy of the World Trading System (Oxford University Press, 3rd ed, 2009)
  • John H. Jackson The World Trading System (MIT Press, 2nd ed ,1997)


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules