LAWPUBL 432 - International Economic Relations

Credit points: 15 points
Offered: Semester Two
Contact hours: Lectures - 3 hours per week
Course Coordinator: Professor Jane Kelsey
Prerequisite: 30 points at Stage II in International Relations and Business or LAW 211

Course description

The arena of international economic law is changing almost every day. Whether it’s Trumps tariffs, China’s Huawei, food contamination scares, the cost of life-saving medicines or fears of another financial meltdown, the trade and investment arena is never boring!  

Twenty-five years ago, the World Trade Organization was created to oversee a raft of new global rules. Since then, the scope and scale of free trade, investment and economic integration agreements has changed dramatically as bilateral and regional agreements have left the WTO behind. They still cover the traditional issues of goods and agriculture that are crucial for an export economy like New Zealand. Contemporary agreements also impose controversial behind-the-border constraints on domestic regulation. Today, there are attempts to export those new rules back into the WTO, without addressing the development deficit that was supposed to be addressed in the now-moribund Doha round of negotiations.  

The course will start with an overview of these dynamics. Second, we will look at a sample of the core legal concepts, rules and issues, ranging across goods and agriculture, services and digital trade, intellectual property and medicines, and investment rules and disputes. The final part will explore some of the controversies over how these new more expansive rules impact on countries’ domestic policy and regulatory space.

Course objectives

Students who successfully complete the course should have a sound understanding of:     

  • the economic and geopolitical dynamics that are shaping international economic regulation and its institutional arrangements;       
  • the logic and substance of the core concepts of international economic law;       
  • the diversity of subjects that are covered by contemporary trade and investment agreements and their associated rules;       
  • tensions between international economic agreements and national policies on the Treaty of Waitangi, climate change and national security; and
  • and be able to articulate your own position.


The coursebook will be supplemented by materials posted on Canvas, as developments unfold.


  • 1500 word essay (30%)
  • 2 hour open-book exam OR 4000 word research paper (70%)
Open book means that you may, if you wish, bring into the exam and refer to any materials such as casebooks, textbooks and study notes.