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"Trade remedies" – that is, anti-dumping measures, anti-subsidy (or "countervailing") measures, and safeguards – are one of the most dynamic, topical, and commercially-relevant areas of international trade law. They are the primary legal instruments used by States to counteract so-called unfair trade practices from other countries and to protect their domestic industries against external shocks in a globalised world. The World Trade Organization ("WTO") provides a framework of rules for trade remedies, including to engage in thorough investigations, which States carry out under their own domestic frameworks. Hundreds of such investigations are carried out every year. Additionally, States are increasingly innovating with these legal instruments to address not just traditional "unfair" competition, but also new areas such as unequal environmental standards, labour protections they consider weak or ineffective, differences between market-oriented versus State-led economic models, and allegations on currency undervaluation.
This subject examines the international and domestic legal frameworks for the trade remedy legal instruments. It begins with the conceptual background behind trade remedies and examines how their original rationale relates the evolving global economic landscape. It then looks at the WTO rules on dumping, subsidization, and safeguards, as well as the legal concept of injury to domestic industries, and the rules concerning evidence and procedure in trade remedy investigations. Students will explore States' differing perspectives on these rules, including how these differing perspectives have played out in WTO disputes. The subject then considers the interplay between the WTO framework and domestic legal regimes, and introduces some of the key features of major domestic jurisdictions, including recent innovations around differences in environmental regulation, labor protections, and economic models (e.g. industrial policies; "non-market" economies).
Students will frequently encounter diverging economic, policy, and legal perspectives in the field of "trade remedies". A main feature of this subject is to equip students with the knowledge to meaningfully engage with differing perspectives and to form their own views. This is not a subject about "right" answers, but is rather about principles, concepts, and ideas that are continually being adapted to new global economic contexts, and that are often contested by exporters, domestic industries, and States. This subject is suitable both for practitioners looking to build technical expertise and an understanding of the interests and strategies of the varying actors in trade remedy investigations, and for those with a broader interest in understanding the interplay between trade remedy tools and wider trade policies.
Principal topics include:
- The concepts of fair versus "unfair" trade: what is "unfair" trade in theory, how does unfair trade relate to trade liberalization more broadly, and why is unfair trade a source of major tensions in international relations today?
- The framework relating to "unfair" trade under the law of the World Trade Organization ('WTO'): conduct that is prohibited; conduct that can be investigated and counteracted; and the role of litigation in the WTO and domestic legal systems.
- The purpose, operation, and legal principles on the three main legal tools that are available to States to counteract unfair trade and external shocks (anti-dumping measures against dumping; countervailing measures against subsidies; safeguards against external shocks and other events).
- The legal concept of "injury to domestic industry" in counteracting unfair trade practices and external shocks.
- The nature and operation of litigation proceedings at the WTO involving trade remedies.
Intended learning outcomes
A student who has successfully completed this subject should be able to:
- Identify and analyse which types of conduct involving "unfair" trade can be lawfully counteracted in international economic law
- Critically appraise the framework in which "unfair" trade is regulated in international economic law, including the mechanisms available to States to address unfair trade (investigations; WTO litigation; domestic litigation)
- Apply the key legal tools available to States under the WTO framework to counteract "unfair" trade or external shocks (anti-dumping measures; countervailing measures; safeguards).
- Determine and apply the legal, evidentiary, and procedural steps that must be demonstrated in an investigation before remedial measures can be taken against unfair trade or external shocks.
- Compare and interpret differing economic, policy, and legal perspectives on various trade remedies-related issues, and integrate these perspectives into the descriptive and factual nature of the subject.
Last updated: 10 November 2023