02.163 International Trade: Free Trade, Governance and Technology

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Trade is an essential human activity that dates back to the early days of civilization. In this globalized era, the production of goods and services has become much more internationalized, with countries specializing in the production of certain goods and services. With greater liberalization of trade, people can enjoy a greater variety of goods and services that arise from trade. As political and economic relationships are shaped by trade flows among countries, it has become ever more important to learn about trade as a highly internationalized, technologized and networked activity.

This course covers the basics of international trade. Topics range from the economic rationale for trade, debates surrounding free trade, protectionism, multilateral organizations governing free trade (e.g. the World Trade Organization), trade agreements, global production networks, the politics of trade, and sustainability and ethical issues arising from trade. Industry and market sectors covered, include electronics (e.g. semiconductors), agriculture, apparel, among others.

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand the importance of international trade in a highly globalized world.
  2. Apply economic and geographical theories to examine the current configuration of trade flows and governance.
  3. Identify and explain current debates on international trade.
  4. Highlight issues arising from global trade activity and propose solutions to overcome them.

Measurable Outcomes

  1. Evaluate the content of academic and press articles in class discussions and short reading responses.
  2. Analyze the risks and challenges of international trade through hypothetical case studies that illustrate various facets of the global trade system.
  3. Apply key concepts and integrate different information sources to unpack the political, socioeconomic, and environmental issues through a project that deals with a selected topic in international trade.

Course Requirement

Assessment Percentage
WEC – Class participation (discussion and cases) 15
WEC – Individual reading written response 15
WEC – Individual paper and presentation 35
WEC – Group presentation of trade topics 25

Weekly Schedule

Week 1 – Introduction

Week 2 – Trading Nations

Week 3 – The Case for Free Trade

Week 4 – Trade Protectionism and Trade Wars

Week 5 – Trade Governance

Week 6 – Trade Finance

Week 7 – Recess

Week 8 – Transnational Corporations: The Primary ‘Movers and Shapers’ of the Global Economy

Week 9 – Global Production Networks (GPNs)

Week 10 – Global Trade Disruptions

Week 11 – Technology and Shifting Trade Patterns

Week 12 – International Trade, Ethics and Sustainability

Week 13 & 14 – Individual Paper Presentations; Final Paper Due

Gordon Tan