World Trade Organisation Law

Subject LAWS50109 (2016)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2016.

Credit Points: 12.5
Level: 5 (Graduate/Postgraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2016:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period 25-Jul-2016 to 23-Oct-2016
Assessment Period End 18-Nov-2016
Last date to Self-Enrol 23-Nov-2015
Census Date 31-Aug-2016
Last date to Withdraw without fail 23-Sep-2016

This subject has a quota of 60 students per stream. Please refer to the Melbourne Law JD website for further information about subject quotas

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: 36 hours
Total Time Commitment:

144 hours


Successful completion of all the below subjects:

Study Period Commencement:
Credit Points:
November, Semester 2
Semester 1
Semester 1
Semester 2
Semester 2
Semester 2
Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects:

Students who have completed any of the below subjects are not permitted to take LAWS50109 World Trade Organization Law:

Core Participation Requirements:

The Melbourne Law School welcomes applications from students with disabilities. It is University and Law School policy to take all reasonable steps to enable the participation of students with disabilities, and reasonable adjustments will be made to enhance a student's participation in the School's programs.

The inherent academic requirements for the study in the Melbourne Law School are:

  • The ability to attend classes and actively engage in the analysis of complex materials and debate;
  • The ability to read, analyse and comprehend complex written legal materials and complex interdisciplinary materials;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate in writing a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to clearly and independently communicate orally a knowledge and application of legal principles and interdisciplinary materials and critically evaluate these;
  • The ability to work independently and as a part of a group;
  • The ability to present orally and in writing legal analysis to a professional standard.

Students must possess behavioural and social attributes that enable them to participate in a complex learning environment. Students are required to take responsibility for their own participation and learning. They also contribute to the learning of other students in collaborative learning environments, demonstrating interpersonal skills and an understanding of the needs of other students. Assessment may include the outcomes of tasks completed in collaboration with other students.

Students who feel their disability will inhibit them from meeting these inherent academic requirements are encouraged to contact Student Equity and Disability Support.


Assoc Prof Margaret Young


Phone: +61 3 8344 4475

Subject Overview:

The regulation of international trade is both a driver and a result of economic globalization. Under the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO), governments agree to liberalise trade, refrain from discriminating between like products from foreign countries, harmonise certain regulatory frameworks, and resolve trade disputes. These laws impact significantly on social and environmental policies.

This subject is designed to provide students with an applied understanding of the law of the World Trade Organization as it operates in real-world social and political context. While developing a sophisticated understanding of the historical and theoretical fundamentals of WTO law and dispute settlement, students also continually reflect upon the relationship between WTO rules and other values, such as environmental protection and human rights.

Topics include an historical introduction to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the World Trade Organization, an analysis of core WTO principles in goods and services and a consideration of the non-economic exceptions to WTO obligations. This requires an indepth engagement with WTO legal agreements and Appellate Body case-law. Based on this knowledge of substantive WTO Law, students examine the WTO dispute settlement system, including its relationship with other parts of the international legal system. A range of more specialized subjects in trade law may in any given year include the regulation of product standards (ie to harmonize labeling and other requirements), the use of sanitary and phytosanitary measures (ie rules on food safety and pests in contexts such as the use of genetically modified organisms), trade policy instruments used by governments to protect domestic industries, subsidies and 'trade remedies'. Major challenges and reform efforts in international trade law, including the stalled Doha round of negotiations, may also be considered.

Learning Outcomes:

A student who has successfully completed this subject will have an advanced understanding of, and be able to critically analyse and reflect on, a range of trade law problems and issues confronting member countries and individuals.

Students will:

  • Obtain a deep and nuanced understanding of the historical and theoretical influences on the development of international trade law;
  • Develop mastery of the fundamental principles of the World Trade Organization, including the principle of Most-Favoured Nation Treatment (MFN), national treatment, as well as social and political exceptions to these principles;
  • Have advanced knowledge of the dispute settlement system of the WTO, as well as high-level understanding of the relevance of the Appellate Body in broader international context;
  • Have advanced and specialized knowledge of the impact of trade agreements in selected critical and topical social issues, such as the import of genetically modified food or the protection of fossil fuel industries through subsidy programs;
  • Demonstrate mastery of the fundamental principles of trade law in an applied context (including by advising on hypothetical problems posed in an exam setting) or in a more theoretical setting (in a research paper);
  • Develop advanced oral and written communication skills that draw upon diverse international legal materials, and be able to find, evaluate and apply primary and secondary sources to issues of international trade law;
  • Be able to critically evaluate the role of expertise and the international legal professional in the WTO diplomatic and legal context.
  • A case study on an allocated aspect of WTO Law. The case study involves an oral presentation plus a write-up of 1,500 words maximum (25%);
  • An 8-hour take home examination during the scheduled examination period - maximum word limit 4,500 (75%).

The due date of the above assessment will be available to students via the LMS.

Prescribed Texts:

Specialist printed materials will also be made available from the Melbourne Law School.

Breadth Options:

This subject is not available as a breadth subject.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills:

On successful completion of the subject students will have developed and demonstrated:

  • Advanced and specialized skills in reading, comprehending and interpreting the legal agreements of the World Trade Organization and panel and Appellate Body reports;
  • Advanced technical skills in treaty interpretation (extending skills developed in Principles of Public Law);
  • An advanced capacity for critical and independent thought and reflection, in particular on the impact of trade law on sensitive domestic or global issues of social and political concern;
  • Mastery of theoretical knowledge and demonstrated ability to critically reflect on theory and professional practice;
  • Cognitive, creative and communication skills to critically investigate, analyse and present complex information, concepts and theories in the context of a standalone assessment exercise;
  • An expanded capacity for independent time management and self-directed legal research/exam preparation requiring familiarity and mastery of complex international legal materials (including interdisciplinary materials);
  • An ability to critically evaluate the demands and justifications of the entrenchment of norms in the context of economic globalization and global governance; and
  • An awareness of the value of collaborative learning in a participatory seminar style teaching environment.
Related Course(s): Juris Doctor

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