About us

All about the International Trade Policy Unit


The International Trade Policy Unit (ITPU) aims to serve the needs of the academic, policy, business, and civil society community. We conduct research, evaluation, and educative and capacity building projects that address the numerous and complex policy and business implications of trade agreements at the multilateral, regional and national levels.

The ITPU also organises events at which contemporary trade issues are discussed, and co-ordinates research and other commercial activities through LSE Enterprise.

The ITPU can draw upon the experience and interdisciplinary skills of LSE Experts, partner institutions, select alumni, and upon research work being pursued within the wide range of social science disciplines in the School.

Established in 1999 in response to the need to strengthen knowledge of and capacity in international trade the ITPU has retained its relevance.  In the early years of its existing the focus was on multilateral trade and investment negotiations in the World Trade Organisation, with time the work of those associated with the Unit has moved to look at the burgeoning of preferential trade and investments agreements.

In terms of contributions to capacity building the ITPU has been primarily active in coordinating joint programmes with a range of developing and middle income countries in Africa, South East Asia and the Caribbean.  In the early 2000s the ITPU also contributed to courses for the UK government. Here again the relevance of the work of the Unit has been confirmed by recent contributions on (re)building UK trade capacity.


The ITPU has developed considerable expertise and experience in five principle areas:

  • Understanding trade agreements, their interrelationship, and their implications in the international and domestic context

  • Their implications for civil society, the business community and wider global debates

  • The political and organisational requirements arising out of these agreements, particularly their implications for federal systems, and for transition and developing countries

  • How the policy interface between national governments and their regional and multilateral trading partners are managed

  • Evaluating how countries manage the appropriate balance between trade agreements and other policy priorities, both at the national and international levels

These areas all relate to the core questions in academic research and policy debates on trade and investment policy.  In concrete terms the ITPU has provided the vehicle for work on the following topics:

  • The work and prospects of the multilateral trading system in the shape of the World Trade Organisation

  • The growth and impact of preferential trade agreements, their compatibility with multilateral trade and with each other. In so doing the ITPU has coordinated work on all major preferential trade agreements as well as detailed comparisons of their content

  • The trend towards a greater importance of regulatory policy questions in trade and investment policy and agreements, such as whether and how divergent regulatory policies should be addressed in international agreements

  • European Union trade and investment policy and its evolution over the past two decades

Research in these fields has been largely policy-related research with funding from a range of sources including in particular: the European Commission, European Parliament, the Commonwealth Secretariat, and a range of national governments.

Most research work takes the form of cooperative projects involving research institutions from across Europe and internationally. The ITPU has in particular coordinated research consortia of leading European centres of research on trade for its work on European Union trade and investment policy.

Capacity building and consultancy

What we offer

The International Trade Policy Unit (ITPU) has the capacity to design, organise and deliver programmes that involve:

  • Organising roundtables, workshops or similar events to raise awareness on trade topics within the trade policy community

  • Capacity-building and in-service training programmes designed to meet the specific requirements of the public sector and official trade policy communities

  • Continuing professional development, or executive development programmes designed to meet the requirements of corporate or government executives

  • Commercial research into areas of trade policy and its political, social, commercial or legal implications

  • Consultancy into any aspect of multilateral, regional or national trade policies

See Training, capacity-building and executive education programmes below for more details.

Programme selection and programme design is entirely client-driven and can be held and organised at LSE or at virtually any location around the world. Partner or collaborating institutions can be part of this process. The nature and structure of suggested projects and programmes vary with each request.

How we work

For capacity building and consultancy work the ITPU operates through LSE Enterprise. We can function as either the lead consultant on a project, or as a partner to another institution that is prepared to act as the project leader.

The ITPU is located in the International Relations Department of the LSE and adopts a multidisciplinary/political economy approach to trade and investment policy. In addition to LSE colleagues in related disciplines, such as law, economics and development, the ITPU typically draws on a network of international subject matter specialists on the issue under investigation.

Contact us

Dr Stephen Woolcock
Visiting Associate, ITPU
c/o Department of International Relations
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

+44 (0)20 7955 7696


For consultancy enquiries contact:

LSE Enterprise
London School of Economics and Political Science
Houghton Street
London WC2A 2AE

+44 (0)20 7955 7128
+44 (0)20 7955 7980