ASTK15724U COURSE: The politics of International Trade

Volume 2017/2018

Master students: 7.5 ECTS

Bachelor students: 10 ECTS


Elective in "Specialisation in International political ecomony"


The politics of international trade have erupted. The support for free-trade appears dwindling. Across the Atlantic, trade and investment issues have suddenly become a politically contested by left and right. This is in stark contrast to series of economic transformations. Disruptions in trade and of trade are expected, and feared. Trade wars are looming. Competitiveness concerns are voiced. An unprecedented wave of negotiations on comprehensive trade agreements has started, of which the now defaulted Atlantic TTIP and the Pacific TPP agreements ignited this new debate on free trade. Yet, many such  agreements are in the making. Even Brexit ultimately hinges on such a trade agreement. Unfair trade accusations have grown powerful. Investment agreements have become contested. Social and environmental sustainability requirements may become enforceable. Global value chains, transnational production and regulatory competition makes corporate demands for new rules and institutions in global trade more intense. Anti-globalist sentiments have fueled stronger societal demands for fairer trade regulation. These are all potential systemic changes that could signal a destabilization of the world economy. The course asks whether we are witnessing a disorderly replacement of the postwar trading order as we know it. If so, in what direction is the world economy and the trading system heading, and what are the implications, for Denmark, for Europe, for ‘the West’, for ‘the rising powers’ and for developing countries? The course focuses the regulating of international trade, introducing the main principles, mechanisms and issues in global trade as well as politics of regulating trade, emphasizing the international political economy (IPE) theories and research on transformations in global trade. It will address the ongoing discussion of e.g. the new comprehensive trade agreements, ongoing WTO negotiations and unilateral trade policy practices are supplanting, disintegrating or reproducing the existing trade order. It will also introduce the basic setup of EU and US trade policy processes, amongst others, the legal and institutional characteristics of the WTO, and new economic theories on global trade, investment and production. 

Learning Outcome



demonstrate familiarity with trade policy relevant theories and approaches in IPE and IR;

understand main mechanisms, institutions and regulatory processes involved in global trade, in relation to specific cases in international trade, including trade negotiations, dispute settlement and policy surveillance;


Present informed, convincing and precise discussion and analysis in writing, including relevant literature review, theoretical debates and empirical analysis. 

make informed, analytical evaluations of different approaches to the study of trade politics in IPE and IR  


Discuss key contemporary issues and developments in international trade in the light of relevant historical, legal and theoretical considerations.   


Illustrative readings

Michael Trebilcock ,  Robert Howse  and  Antonia Eliason (2013): The Regulation of International Trade, 4th Edition, Routledge. (E-publication accessible at http:/​/​​isbn/​9780203114650. Accessed 14-8 2017.

J-F Morin, T. Novotna F. Ponjaert, & M. Telò (eds.): The Politics of Transatlantic Trade Negotiations: TTIP in a Globalized World, 2015, Farnham: Ashgate Publishers

Jagdish Bhagwati (2008): Termites in the Trading System: How Preferential Agreements Undermine Free Trade, OUP/Council of Foreign Relations

Baldwin, Richard (2011): “21st Century Regionalism: Filling the gap between 21st century trade and 20th century trade rules”, World Trade Organization Staff Working Paper ERSD- 2011-08, 23 May 2011. http:/​/​​english/​res_e/​reser_e/​ersd201108_e.pdf

Joost Pauwelyn, ‘New Trade Politics for the 21st Century”, Journal of International Economic Law, 11(3), 2008, pp. 559-573.

John Ravenhill (2014): ‘Regional trade agreements’, in J. Ravenhill (ed.) Global Political

Economy, 4th edition, 2014, pp. 139-170

Duina, Francesco (2010): Frames, Scripts, and the Making of Regional Trade Areas, in Constructing the International Economy, Abdelal, Blyth & Parson (eds.), Cornell University Press, pp. 93-113

No specific requirements although familiarity with main IR and IPE theories is an advantage. Knowledge of advanced economic theory is not necessary.
A mix of in-class lectures, student group work, invited guest-lectures and student workshops.
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • Total
  • 28
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written assignment
Written assignment
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assesment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner