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International Economic Law

International economic law has entered the mainstream. Politicians debate the intricacies of free trade agreements, newspapers run stories about investor protection mechanisms, and popular movements use collective action to undermine intellectual property provisions.

Yet, despite breaking into the mainstream, popular knowledge on the subject remains sparse at best. This is due in large part to the representation of international economic law in both political rhetoric and popular media: much is said about the technical aspects of the field and emphasis placed on our collective preoccupation with economic growth. Economic considerations, however, cannot be separated from social functions that go beyond the production and exchange of goods. Developing a deeper understanding of the socio-legal character of international economic law will provide students with greater awareness of the political capacities and opportunities available to citizens.

Four topics are central to our examination of international economic law. As is to be expected, we will begin with the basics of global political economy: without an understanding of capitalism or the forces that propelled its transationalisation, international economic law will remain a mystery. Next, we will consider foundations of international law—how the global framework is ‘regulated’—followed by foundations of international economic law—regulation of the global economic framework. Our third section is dedicated to intricacies of international economic law including trade and the WTO, investment, and labour while the final one will target normative aspects including the place of justice, fairness, and equality in the global economy.

learned to work with people from different cultures and ways of thinking. It opened my mind.

Manfredi Randazzo (Italy)

Key Facts

Level: Intermediate

Fees: Please see fees page

Teaching: 62 hours

Expected independent study: 68 hours

Optional assessment: Dependant on course

Typical credit: 3-4 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)*
* Please check with your home institution

For more information on exams and credit, please see our Teaching and assessment page



Teaching Assistant

Raphael Quintero


Contrary to perceptions, there is nothing boring about IEL other than the standard textbooks which, let’s be frank, seem to be written with the principal aim of making you dread the study of IEL. To counter the feeling of dejection elicited by most textbooks, I will primarily draw on an array of materials in my teaching of this module. We will utilise academic texts, of course, but I will select these from a rich tapestry of scholars. I will also point you toward popular pieces, podcasts, blogs, and, films where available.

Essential readings:

  • Hélène Ruiz Fabri, Regulating Trade, Investment, and Money
  • Bhupinder Chimni, Critical Theory And International Economic Law: A Third World Approach To International Law Perspective

Suggested readings:

  • George Crane and Abla Amawi, The Theoretical Evolution of International Political Economy: A Reader, Introductory Chapter
  • Steven Charnovitz, The Field of International Economic Law

The Dialectic between IEL and Capitalism

Essential readings:

  • Curtis Milhaut & Katarina Pistor, Law & Capitalism
  • David Trubek, Max Weber on Law and the Rise of Capitalism
  • Bhupinder Chimni, Capitalism, Imperialism, and International Law in the 21st Century

Suggested readings:

  • Eric Williams, Slavery & Capitalism, Chapters 3 & 9

Liberalism and the Rise of Economic Determinism

Essential readings:

  • Illeana M. Porras, European Origins, the Doctrine of the Providential Function of Commerce, and International Law's Embrace of Economic Growth,
  • China Miéville, The Commodity-Form Theory of International Law

Suggested readings:

  • Duncan Kennedy, The Role of Law in Economic Thought: Essays on the Fetishism of Commodities

A Neoliberal Coup

Essential readings:

  • Bob Jessop, Neoliberalism
  • Andrés Lleras, Neoliberal Law and Regulation
  • Kenneth Veitch, Law, Social Policy, and the Neoliberal State

Suggested readings:

  • Julio Faundez, International economic law and development: before and after neo- liberalism

International Financial Institutions: Past, Present, and Future

Essential readings:

  • Ngaire Woods, The Bretton Woods Institutions
  • Peter van de Bossche, Economic Globalisation and the Law of the WTO

International Trade in Goods and Services: The Illusion of Sameness

Essential readings:

  • Jane Kelsey, Serving Whose Interest: Taking Services to Market
  • Bhupinder Chimni, Developing Countries and the GATT/WTO System: Some Reflections on the Idea of Free Trade and Doha Round Trade Negotiations

International Financial Regulation and the Universalisation of the Freedom of Capital

Essential readings:

  • Anthony Elson, Financial Globalisation and the International Financial Architecture
  • Anthony Elson, The Evolution of the Global Financial Order

Investing Our Way to a Brighter Future

Essential readings:

  • Muthucumaraswamy Sornarajah, Mutations of Neo-Liberalism in International Investment Law
  • Ibironke T. Odumosu-Ayanu, South-South Investment Treaties, Transnational Capital and African Peoples

Suggested readings:

  • Antonius R. Hippolyte, Third World Perspectives On International Economic Governance: A Theoretical Elucidation Of The ‘Regime Bias’ Model In Investor-State Arbitration And Its Negative Impact On The Economies Of Third World States, p1-12

Which Way Now? The New ‘New’ International Economic Order

Essential readings:

  • Margot Salomon, From NIEO to Now and the Unfinishable Story of Economic Justice
  • Antony Anghie, Legal Aspects of the New International Economic Order

Suggested readings:

  • Resolution adopted by the General Assembly 3201 (S-VI). Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order
  • Resolution adopted by the General Assembly 3202 (S-VI). Programme of Action on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order

Course Aims

Once Europe finished bludgeoning itself in 1945, new trading rules were adopted to facilitate the rebuilding of the continent and to maintain control over rebelling colonies. If we add to this the decreasing cost of international transport and the accelerating speed of communication, it was inevitable that global economic activity would soar. And soar it has with the rate and breadth of global economic activity reaching over the past three generations alone levels unseen in all of human history.

Unsurprisingly, these activities have altered the nature of the global economy and of the societies it connects, challenging the capacities of national governments to regulate economic activity within their domestic borders. The erosion of domestic authority is straining the supposed consensus on the value of economic globalisation, characterised by the rise of nationalistic, and usually ethno-chauvinist movements across the European continent.

Despite these transformations, popular knowledge of the regulatory regime underpinning the global economy is sparse at best. This is largely due to the representation of international economic law (IEL) as a technical field preoccupied solely with GDPs, deficits, and exchange rates. Economic regulation, however, cannot be separated from social imperatives that exist beyond the mere exchange of goods and services. In this module, you will develop a deeper appreciation of the past, present, and future of international economic law and, in the process, acquire a greater understanding of the political capacities and opportunities shaped by international law for individuals and corporations, states and societies.

Learning Outcomes

The module will compel you to examine aspects of IEL. It will provide an overview of the legal foundations of global capitalism and the regulatory frameworks that facilitate this economic model. The module will also situate international economic law within a broader understanding of its interactions with other international and national, legal and non-legal processes, including its impact on human wellbeing, national sovereignty, and ecological sustainability. We will also examine the dialectic between economic regulation and human aspiration, problematising the type of social engineering precipitated by IEL norms and processes.

Upon completion of this module, you will be able to:

  • Identify the key economic law institutions and agreements in IEL and the arguments supporting their development;
  • Explain the relationship between national regulation and IEL;
  • Evaluate how IEL impacts upon other policy areas;
  • Investigate, analyse and synthesise complex information, problems, concepts and theories about economic globalisation and global capitalism and the ways of regulating such activities;
  • Use cognitive, technical and creative skills to generate and evaluate at an abstract level complex ideas and concepts relevant to economic globalisation and its institutions.

Course Assessment

For this course, there will be 4 hours of teaching on most weekdays, comprised of lectures and small group seminars. The structure will be:

  • 3 hours of lectures
  • A 1 hour seminar in small groups

Students will also be given time each day for independent study. Towards the end of the third week, students will also be provided with time for revision.

Course Assessment

The module will be assessed via a 2-hour examination. It should be noted that the exam is not compulsory. Everyone who completes the course – whether or not they sit the exam - will receive a certificate of attendance. However, by taking the exam you will also receive a grade/mark for the course which can be helpful to you.

I encourage you to listen to my podcast on the Triangular Method of Study, available at:

There are no prerequisites for this module. This is deliberate. As is evident from the synopsis above, the study of international economic law is essential to your understanding of the operation of both global capitalism and the global economy. A prerequisite would simply place an additional barrier between you and vital information.

Nevertheless, this approach comes at a cost: limited—sometimes non-existent—knowledge about the operation of international law or capitalism. To ensure that you are not disadvantaged by our policy, I have included some readings and podcasts below to bring you up to speed with both. I thus encourage you to have a gander at the following:

Admittedly I wrote this blogpost over a year ago and my thinking has since evolved since but you should expect some of the themes to persist.

IEL exists to regulate global capitalism so without a solid grasp of the latter, you are likely to face great difficulty when engaging with the former. [His other popular works on capitalism – such as Bad Samaritans – are equally edifying.]

IEL makes little sense without some grounding in the basics of IL including theory, history, sources, and subjects.

Entry Requirements

There are no prerequisites for this course. This course is open to students studying any discipline at University level. We welcome individuals from all backgrounds, including students who are currently studying another subject but who want to broaden their knowledge in another discipline. Students should also meet our standard entry requirements and must be aged 18 or over by the time the Summer School commences and have a good understanding of the English language.

Please note changes to the syllabus and teaching team may be made over the coming months before exact set of topics are finalised.

Take a look at our other related courses:
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