Below is an indicative list of research topics, which candidates may propose. The programme also welcomes applications with other suitable research topics related to the research interests of the potential supervisors.
1. WTO and risk regulation
WTO law controls national risk regulation mainly through the SPS and the TBT Agreement, which call on WTO members to justify their regulations with appropriate scientific or technical evidence. This raises a number of questions related to the ability of panels and the Appellate Body to judge scientific evidence and integrate it into legal decisions, the relationship between empirical scientific evidence and political judgment, the role of uncertainty and international standards. Proposals are invited covering the following (also in relation to specific regulatory risks):
- A law-science dichotomy in the interaction between panels and experts advising the panel?
- Appropriateness of mutual recognition for the WTO context
- Private, transnational standards and WTO law
- The WTO-consistency of labelling
- WTO risk regulation and the ethics of risk
2. The constitutionalisation of international economic law
The appropriateness of using constitutional language to refer to WTO law is still contested both as regards the operation of WTO law and the definition of the concept of a constitution. Research proposals are invited on the following:
- The link between constitutionalisation of the WTO and human rights
- Constitutionalisation and democratic legitimacy of WTO law
- Constitutionalism, multi-level governance and federalism
- The concept of a post-national constitution and a theory of law
- Unity and fragmentation of international law
3. WTO law and domestic regulation
WTO law also controls domestic social regulation through the obligations pertaining to the prohibition of quantitative restrictions, national treatment, necessity and the chapeau. Despite the importance of these obligations, considerable uncertainty concerning their content remains. Research proposals can focus on the following:
- The interpretation of necessity and the role of balancing in furnishing an orientation towards the common good in the control of domestic regulation in the GATT, GATS or bilateral investment protection agreements.
- Clarification of likeness and ‘less favourable treatment’ in the GATT or GATS
- Sector or issue-specific legal analyses
- The relationship between quantitative restrictions, national treatment and Article VI in the GATS
- The GATS and international standards
4. WTO dispute settlement, interpretation and legal reasoning
This topic can be approached from the angle of doctrinal legal analysis, legal theory or IR theory. Proposals on any of the following are invited:
- A theory of textual, contextual and teleological interpretation
- How does WTO dispute settlement shape the conduct of states?
- Applicable law in the WTO
5. International economic law, development and distributive justice
Trade liberalisation has distributive effects between states and within states but it is not clear whether these can actually be justified by egalitarian theories of justice applied at the global level. Empirically speaking, the pro-development provisions in WTO law have remained largely aspirational and may need to be strengthened. Proposals are invited on the following topics:
- How to promote development effectively in the WTO?
- The international economic order as a trigger for obligations of distributive justice?
- Is trade liberalisation justified by cosmopolitan egalitarianism?
- The justification of intellectual property protection under the auspices of the WTO