BASS Social Anthropology and Sociology

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
The International Political Economy of Trade

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI32082
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course is run as a workshop and divided into three parts. Part I deals with the economic arguments underlying debates around free trade and protection. Part II covers the political institutions of the modern trading system, from the history of the multilateral system under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, to present day free trade agreements and basics of WTO law. Part III focuses on select issues and actors in global trade politics.


The course unit aims to:

- introduce students to a range of approaches theorising international trade within International Political Economy;
- familiarise students with the historical origins and development of the contemporary international trading system;
- introduce students to the principal actors in the global trading system;
- familiarise students with some of principal issues in the contemporary politics of international trade.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to demonstrate:

- an ability to identify and critically reflect on the distinctive contribution made by at least three approaches within International Political Economy to the study of global trade politics;
- an understanding of the historical origins of the contemporary global trading system;
- an ability to describe the role of key actors within the global trading system;
- an ability to critically reflect on a number of key issues in the contemporary politics of international trade and situate these within contemporary theoretical debates;
- critical, evaluative and communicative skills through in-class presentations, participation in class activities and discussions and through the production of a research essay.

Teaching and learning methods

This course is taught in workshop format. Each workshop will mix lecturing and student-led activities intended to encourage inquiry-based learning, such as in-class presentations, debates on questions, stimulation of trade policy processes and plenary discussions. These activities will be followed by a debriefing which is intended to link students’ insights to the theoretical, historical and empirical issues covered in lectures and readings. Students will therefore be expected read a set of core readings every week in preparation for workshops.

Assessment methods

Assessment will be both formative and summative. Formative assessment will come both in the form of a book review and through informal discussions between the student and tutor. Summative assessment will include: a) the book review; b) a set of seminar log entries (one per seminar) requiring students to reflect on in-class activities and discussions and the prescribed readings; c) a research essay on an area of students' own choosing.

Feedback methods

Politics staff will provide feedback on written work within 15 working days of submission via Blackboard (if submitted through Turnitin).

Students should be aware that all marks are provisional until confirmed by the external examiner and the final examinations boards in June.

For modules that do not have examination components the marks and feedback for the final assessed component are not subject to the 15 working day rule and will be released with the examination results. This applies to Semester 2 modules only. Semester one modules with no final examination will have their feedback available within the 15 working days.

You will receive feedback on assessed essays in a standard format. This will rate your essay in terms of various aspects of the argument that you have presented your use of sources and the quality of the style and presentation of the essay. If you have any queries about the feedback that you have received you should make an appointment to see your tutor. Tutors and Course Convenors also have a dedicated office hour when you can meet with her/him to discuss course unit specific problems and questions.

On assessments submitted through Turnitin you will receive feedback via Blackboard. This will include suggestions about ways in which you could improve your work in future. You will also receive feedback on non-assessed coursework, whether this is individual or group work. This may be of a more informal kind and may include feedback from peers as well as academic staff

Recommended reading

Barton, J.H, Goldstein, J., Josling, T. and Steinberg, R.H. (2012), The Evolution of the Trade Regime: Politics, Law and Economics of the GATT and the WTO (Princeton: Princeton University Press).
Destler, I.M (2005), American Trade Politics, 4th edn (Washington, DC: Institute for International Economics).
Dos Santos, T. (1970), 'The Structure of Dependence', American Economic Review, 60 (2), pp. 231-6.
Galtung, J. (1971), 'A Structural Theory of Imperialism', Journal of Peace Research, 8 (2), pp. 81-117.
Goldstein, J. (1993), Ideas, Interests and American Trade Policy (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).
Grant, W. and Kelly, D. (eds) (2005), The Politics of International Trade in the 21st Century: Actors, Issues and Regional Dynamics (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan).
Mansfield, E.D. and Milner, H.V. (eds) (1997), The Political Economy of Regionalism (New York, NY: Columbia University Press).
McGuire, S. and Hocking, B. (eds) (2004), Trade Politics, 2nd edn (London: Routledge).
Meunier, S. (2005), Trading Voices: The European Union in International Commercial Negotiations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Milner, H.V. (1988), Resisting Protectionism: Global Industries and the Politics of International Trade (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
Narlikar, A. (2005), International Trade and Developing Countries: Coalitions in the GATT and WTO (London: Routledge).
Wilkinson, R. (2006), The WTO: Crisis and the Governance of Global Trade (London: Routledge).
Woll, C. (2008), Firm Interests: How Governments Shape Business Lobbying on Global Trade (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Silke Trommer Unit coordinator

Additional notes

For lecture timetable see

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