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International Economics

Module description


International economics embraces a wide range of issues that are crucial to living standards across all countries. In turn, a number of highly contentious policy issues arise most recently reflected in the trade conflict between the US and China (and other countries), the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and what might replace it and the impact of globalisation on inequality. To address these questions, this module introduces students to the core elements of international economics with the emphasis being on linking how international trade theory can provide insights into these policy issues. Reflecting the policy issues, the formal aspects of international economics covers a number of topics. These include questions such as why countries find it desirable to engage in international trade, the factors determining the sectors/industries in which they will specialise, the role of ‘new’ trade theory in explaining the gains from trade, the desire of some countries to protect certain sectors from international competition, the reasons for countries wanting to form or join regional trading arrangements, the economics of trade policy, the World Trade Organisation, etc. This module will discuss theoretical and policy issues associated with the above topics.


Additional Information:



This module has a global perspective and addresses some of the major issues affecting the world economy today. These include: how domestic economy is affected by globalisation, how globalisation impacts the well-being of citizens across developed and developing countries, and whether more open economies grow faster than others.



Students develop their understanding of economics, improve their analytical skills, presentation and discursive skills, and their critical appraisal of recent research on current policy issues associated with globalisation.



All of the resources for this module are available on the ELE (Exeter Learning Environment). There will also be a regularly updated blog highlighting various issues which have appeared in the media and are relevant to the module.

Full module specification

Module title:International Economics
Module code:BEE3045
Module level:3
Academic year:2023/4
Module lecturers:
  • Professor Steve McCorriston - Convenor
Module credit:15
ECTS value:







Duration of module: Duration (weeks) - term 1:


Module aims

International economics embraces a wide range of issues central to the functioning of the global economy which, in turn, has potentially significant impacts on domestic economies. At the core of international economics there are a range of central issues.  These include why countries find it desirable to engage in international trade, the factors determining the sectors/industries in which they will specialise, the role of 'new' trade theory in explaining the gains from trade; the role of multinational firms and the economics of off-shoring;, the desire of some countries to protect certain sectors from international competition; the reasons for countries wanting to form or join regional trading arrangements; and the economics of trade policy. These core issues for international economists have the potential to provide significant insights into recent events including: the impact of the rise of China, the impact of the USA-China trade war and issues relating to the UK’s aim to foster new trade agreements in the post-Brexit world. The overall aim of this module is to introduce students to the basics of trade theory in order to equip students with the analytical skills to address current policy issues in the global economy.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. apply economics principles to a wide range of issues in international economics;
  • 2. apply economic reasoning to global policy issues in a critical manner;
  • 3. demonstrate knowledge of the current issues in international economics, an appreciation of how economists address international economic issues and be familiar with current research issues in international economics.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. explain and discuss the economic basis behind current policy debates in international economics
  • 5. critically address different policy proposals in addressing issues arising in international economics

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. demonstrate analytical and critical thinking;
  • 7. deliver coherent argument in written work, including coherent arguments for assessing complex policy issues in the global economy;
  • 8. develop writing skills in addressing theoretical and empirical issues in international economics.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity20Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching Activity5Tutorials
Guided Independent Study125Reading, research, reflection; Preparation for lectures, tutorials and assessments.

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Discussion forums, quizzes, in-class discussion of core material and relation with policy issues1 hour tutorial discussion1-6In class feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
End of module Examination501.5 hours1-8Written feedback
Critical Essay502500 words1-8Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
End of module examination (50%)End of module examination (50%, 1.5 hours)1-8August/September Reassessment Period
Critical Essay (50%)Critical Essay (50%, 2,500 words)1-8August/September Reassessment Period

Re-assessment notes

Where reassessment is by defer and relates to the essay assignment it will be the same as the original assessment

Syllabus plan

• Importance of trade in the world economy and overview of current policy issues;
• The gains from trade;
• What determines specialisation? Ricardian and Heckscher-Ohlin-Samuelson models of comparative advantage;
• Current policy issue: trade and inequity; 
• Current policy issue: Off-shoring and labour markets
• ‘New’ trade theory: trade with imperfect competitions
•  Firms in international trade
• Trade policy: reasons, extent and effects of trade policy protection;
• Measurement and instruments of protection;
• Strategic trade policy; 
• Economic impact of trade wars
• The economics of global trade agreements: the WTO
• Regional trading arrangements 
• Global value chains

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Krugman, P.R., Obstfeld, M., & Melitz, M.J. (2018). International economics: Theory & policy (11th ed.). Harlow: Pearson Education.


(Digital version should be available)

Module has an active ELE page?


Origin date


Last revision date