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WTO and Investment Law


This course covers the basics of international trade and investment law, which are of vital importance for a business lawyer in the 21st century. To start with, the basic institutional as well as substantive WTO rules are discussed. Attention is paid to the “constitution” of the WTO, its structure, rules on dispute settlement, and the main substantive rules laid down in WTO. Attention will be given as well to the implementation by the EU, one of the major WTO members. For different reasons, in recent years new rules are being negotiated outside the WTO, in bilateral or sometimes regional trade agreements. Having discussed the various WTO principles, we will inquire each time what key FTAs (notably those negotiated by the EU) seek to add to the WTO regime.
This overview is followed by an analysis of the rules regarding international investment. In recent years these rules have increasingly come to be seen as complementary to the traditional framework governing international trade. From a business perspective, the attraction is that –contrary to the international trade framework which is intergovernmental in nature— private parties have direct access to an international dispute settlement mechanism. At the same time, civil society is becoming increasingly concerned about the impact of so-called Investor-State Dispute Settlement on the policy space of governments (e.g., regarding public health and environmental regulation). In 2009, the EU received important new powers over international investment, in additional to international trade. The European institutions and the Member States are now grappling with the question how international trade and international investment rules are to be reconciled in a new generation of international economic agreements. The course will address this question as well.


Europa Institute
Steenschuur 25
2311 ES Leiden
Phone: 071-527 7760
Sheena Bruce,
Phone: +31 (0)71 527 7821

** Lecturer(s): ** Prof. Marco Bronckers, Prof. Freya Baetens

** Course Objectives:**

Objectives of the course:
A key objective of the course is to enable students to identify which business or societal issues create a case or controversy under international trade or investment law. This is a matter of gaining knowledge of positive law. Another objective of the course is to give students an insight into certain policy debates about the rules of positive law – and to see which changes are now being discussed. Another theme addressed in the course is whether and how private stakeholders (businesses, NGOs) can rely on intergovernmental trade and investment rules.

Achievement levels:
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:
Knowledge and comprehension:  Being familiar with basic trade and investment law rules and concepts.
Application:  Being able to apply these rules and concepts to actual cases. Understanding some of the major controversies and policy discussions concerning these rules.
Analysis:  Students should gain a working knowledge of the main international treaty rules on trade and investment, with an understanding of the underlying policy objectives.
Presentation:  Students should demonstrate through a written take home exam (open book) that they are capable of applying international trade and investment law to actual cases (hypotheticals).

Mode of Instruction:
Students are expected to attend 12 interactive lectures and seminars during 12 weeks. For every lecture, students have to review the mandatory reading listed on Blackboard, and be prepared to discuss these materials in class.
Week 1: Genesis of GATT and the WTO; what’s missing in the WTO -- the FTA agendas; comparing institutional arrangements of the WTO and the EU
Week 2 : Dispute settlement in the WTO
Week 3 : The scope of the EU’s Common Commercial Policy; tariffs and quotas
Week 4 : MFN and national treatment
Week 5 : The exceptions – the special position of developing countries (GSP), preferential trade agreements, environment and public health
Week 6 : The Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT); the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (SPS)
Week 7 : Trade remedies (dumping, subsidies, safeguards), GATS
Week 8 : TRIPS; private appeals to WTO law
Week 9 : Sources and definitions in international investment law
Week 10 : Expropriation
Week 11 : Standards of host State behaviour
Week 12 : Investment guarantees, political risk insurance and investment law’s future

Assessment Method(s):
100% of the students’ grade will be determined based on a written take home exam.

Reading List:
In addition to consulting the materials listed as required (and recommended) reading on Blackboard, the students need to purchase three books:
For the trade part of the course: Peter Van den Bossche & Werner Zdouc, The Law and Policy of the World Trade Organization (paperback, 4th ed., Cambridge, 2017)
WTO, the Legal Texts: The Results of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations (paperback, Cambridge, 2000)
For the investment part of the course: Krista Nadakavukaren Schefer, International Investment Law – Text, Cases and Materials (paperback, Edward Elgar 2016)

Course Materials

  • Course Reader can be downloaded from blackboard

Course requirements

  • Master degree


  • Sheena Bruce, – Phone: +31 (0)71 527 7821