USSC Micro-credential: Political Economy of International Trade

International trade makes a major contribution to economic welfare and has important implications for the distribution of income. As such, it is also politically contested at both the national and international level. Understanding the political economy of international trade is essential for anyone involved in business, as well as those in government engaged in formulating public policy on trade-related issues.


This short course will introduce basic concepts in international trade, including the case for free trade, protectionism and trade barriers, trade agreements, digital commerce and the de-materialisation of trade, the role of the World Trade Organization and trends in globalisation. Participants will learn how to apply these concepts to current policy issues in Australia’s international economic relations and trade frictions between China and Australia and the US.


At the end of this course, participants will be able to:

  • Understand basic models of international trade, their assumptions, and economic implications, including the principle of comparative advantage.
  • Apply basic supply and demand models in analysing the economic effects of trade policy instruments such as tariffs.
  • Critically analyse the main arguments for free trade and protection and the implications for the formulation of trade policy.
  • Understand recent developments in the world trading system and be able to critically analyse key issues raised in relation to the World Trade Organization and regional trade arrangements.


This course is addressed to those in government and trade-exposed industries or businesses dealing with trade and trade-related policy issues or those considering further study in international relations or economics.




This self-paced course takes approximately 49 hours to complete over 5 weeks. It is delivered through an online Learning Management System (Canvas).


Course materials are distributed electronically.


Kimberly Clausing, Open: The Progressive Case for Free Trade, Immigration, and Global Capital, Harvard University Press, 2019.

Douglas A. Irwin, Free Trade Under Fire (fifth edition), Princeton University Press, 2020 (earlier editions are OK too).


Self paced online. Approximately 49 hours. Class will run from 27 April 2022 to 31 May 2022.


Director of the International Economy Program at the United States Studies Centre, Stephen Kirchner.


$1,650 inc GST