TLPC clusters

Cluster 1: International Economic Law

The TLPC will be an idea vehicle to marshal the growing number of staff members working in various areas of international economic law and policy. Their increasing domestic and international prominence will allow for outreach into the government, non-government and private sectors both at home and abroad. 



Weaponised Trade  

This project will provide the first systematic analysis of Weaponised Trade between the US and China and its impact on Australia’s interests. Weaponised Trade, and its spillover effects, pose one of the most significant and immediate risks to Australia’s security and resilience, undermining the rules-based international order and increasing regional instability.     

The project consists of three separate but interrelated studies to provide an integrated, policy-oriented perspective: analytic research based on secondary data, primary, empirical data collection of stakeholder capacity to respond to Weaponised Trade, and a Delphi process to distil expert recommendations on policy, economic and legal responses.    

The objective of the project is to provide research from subject matter experts, providing high-quality data and interdisciplinary knowledge to formulate Australia’s response to Weaponised Trade. The project is designed to provide: 

  • Independent,high qualityinputs into government policy; 
  • Provide a more informed basis for Australian industry to engage with foreign partners;
  • Contribute to academic research across law, international relations and economics; and
  • Further public debate at a time of increasing economic and strategic uncertainty. 

The weaponisation of trade is a rapidly emerging threat to national security.  Trade and economic mechanisms are now recognised by the Department of Defence as strategically-significant grey zone activities that are intended to be coercive, and are “being used in our immediate region against shared interests in security and stability.”  Strategic competition  and the trade war between the US and China are predicted to escalate still further over the next 5-10 years as the two powers battle for economic and technological supremacy.   

Weaponised Trade is problematic because it bypasses established international i rules in favour of unilateral action. It is deployed as a ‘power play’ by powerful actors both retributively and defensively, usually to further a political agenda in which trade is not the main issue.  

The key weapons of grey zone trade wars include antidumping duties, countervailing duties, safeguard measures, and strategic export restrictions. These grey zone activities put Australia at risk at a number of levels, all of which will be addressed by this project: 

Threats to Australian Economic and Political Interests: New trade-restrictive measures are being introduced globally at a rate of between three and six times of recent historic levels.  2020 has seen these measures applied increasingly to Australia, on a products including beef, barley, and more recently investigations into wine. Further threats against Australia stand to interrupt global and regional supply chains and export markets for Australian products, and the risk of systemic economic coercion may further harm revenue from services such as tourism and education. This directly harms Australian business interests but also fuels public backlash towards the perceived aggressor. We will undertake the first comprehensive empirical analysis of the impact of Weaponised Trade on Australia’s businesses and identify what is required to better equip businesses and government to respond appropriately. 

Threat to the International Rules-Based Order: The second level of threat is the challenge that Weaponised Trade poses to the rules-based system of international law. International order is vital to the security of a middle power such as Australia and has come under threat by large powers seeking to bypass established rules and dispute resolution processes. As the World Trade Organization (WTO) observes, “[t]he proliferation of trade-restrictive actions and the uncertainty created by such actions could place economic recovery in jeopardy. Escalation carries large risks for global trade, with impacts on economic growth, jobs and consumer prices around the world.  We will map the regional impacts of Weaponised Trade and the scope for responses using current trade norms. 

Threats to Peace and Security:  Thirdly, escalated trade tensions generate relationship friction, increasing the risk of flash points over physical security issues such as territory. In a world that is becoming rapidly more protectionist, and as China-US tensions heighten, Australia is struggling to position itself in a way that protects its economic, political and security interests. As the 2016 Defence White Paper explains, “Australia’s security and prosperity relies on a stable, rules-based global order which supports the peaceful resolution of disputes, facilitates free and open trade and enables unfettered access to the global commons to support economic development.”  To best determine how Australia would position itself, and the advantages and disadvantages of various policy responses, we will bring together a unique group of multidisciplinary experts in a Delphi Process (explained below) to offer new and rich perspectives. 

Twitter: @weaponisedtrade

China Trade Terms and Their Barriers: A Comparison of their Impacts on Australia and Brazil 

When China became a member of the WTO in 2001, there was also at that time a new round of negotiations aimed at, among other things, the full integration of the agriculture sector within the WTO’s commitments. Australia and Brazil have traditionally worked together in the agriculture sector at the multilateral level, both being major exporters of agricultural commodities.  

Almost twenty years later, the optimism about fully integrating either agriculture or China into the multilateral trading system has gone. Little progress has been made on the long-standing barriers to freer trade in agriculture within the WTO system, while China continues to be a unique economic and political player.  Furthermore, China is now disputing the leading position that the US and EU have traditionally held within the WTO. The resultant US-China “trade war” may have significant implications for the multilateral trading system, including the possible resurgence of unilateral trade measures (which may also contribute to the demise of the multilateral trade system embodied by the WTO). At the same time as these troubles within the WTO, a number of significant preferential trade agreements (PTAs) have emerged which many believe have the propensity to replace the WTO as tools for international trade governance, though these PTAs have not yet had such an impact.  

China is now viewed by many as the most important trading partner for both Brazil and Australia and both countries are among the top five target countries for Chinese foreign direct investments. This new era of international trade governance and the important positions both countries hold vis-à-vis China raises a number of questions: What are the new prevailing legal instruments that are sustaining and protecting trade exports? How are they impacting Chinese imports from Australia and Brazil? What are the different impacts of these legal strategies on a developed country, such as Australia, and a developing country, such as Brazil? Are there new fragmentations in the forms of trade regulation that are based on regional and geographical proximities? In this new environment should countries such as Australia and Brazil, while sharing similar interests, pursue joint or coordinated trade strategies? We consider these to be relevant questions arising for the upcoming third decade of the twenty-first century. 

Our project aims at (i) understanding the main trade barriers, mostly non-tariff barriers, faced by Australian and Brazilian commodities exports – such as agricultural goods and mining exports – to China; (ii) mapping the types of regulation supporting those barriers; (iii) identifying if these regulations follow accepted standards of regulation at the international level or if there are features that are particular to China in its standards or decision-making process; and (iv) identifying venues for joint-action by countries such as Australia and Brazil in a scenario of China’s potential economic hegemony.  

Offshore Development and Foreign Investment Protection 

Offshore development plays a significant role in boosting national economies. There is global investment interest in a range of new offshore technologies, especially aimed at generation of renewable energy or utilisation of seabed resources. This field has primarily been studied in the sphere of public international law, especially law of the sea.  

This project, however, will examine offshore development through the lens of foreign investment law, including how foreign investment in offshore development is regulated and protected under investment treaties, and the existence and adequacy of compensation funds should environmental harm be caused by offshore operations.  

In particular, this project will focus on two aspects – foreign investment in the laying and operation of submarine cables and pipelines and in offshore energy development.​ A key aspect will be the vulnerability of foreign investments in offshore projects to devaluation where they occur in contested maritime zones or beyond the limits of national jurisdiction. 

 Time for an Australia-India FTA: Helpful IEL Perspectives  

Conference to be held on 23-24 November 2021 

This conference will help develop some of the issues likely to arise if negotiations of such a treaty were to progress beyond the current status. Issues covered will range from trade in goods and services, trade barriers (tariff and non-tariff barriers), including TBT and SPS, as well as trade related IP matters. In addition, the conference will discuss non-trade issues relevant to a trade agreement such as human rights, health and the environment. 

Cluster 2: International Criminal Law & Accountability

The international criminal law and accountability cluster will have a focus on accountability and enforcement. This cluster will bring together interests of TLPC members spanning theoretical approaches and applied research in varied areas, including environmental law, white collar crime, institutional accountability and the displacement of refugees. 


Selecting Enforcement Responses for Environmental Crimes: Do Alternatives to Prosecution Serve the Public Interest?

This project, funded by UOW’s RevITAlising Research Grant (RITA) scheme, will provide a better understanding of how environmental regulators select between enforcement instruments, namely prosecution, enforceable undertakings and penalty notices. It aims to examine how “the public interest” is considered by regulators in selecting between enforcement responses in environmental law. It examines how prosecution, enforceable undertakings and penalty notices are being utilised in practice through an examination of prosecution and enforcement policies, as well as empirical research. The project will have a transnational focus. It will compare the prosecution and enforcement policies of key environmental regulators within NSW and Australia with those in comparable jurisdictions, such as the UK and Canada. 

The research findings will provide regulators with a better understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of their enforcement tools and how these instruments are used in practice. The project aims to provide recommendations to regulators regarding how the use of enforcement tools and the related guidelines and processes can be improved, consequently increasing regulatory effectiveness and protection of the environment and community. 


Cluster 3: Human Rights & Social Perspectives on International Law

The Human Rights and Social Perspectives on International Law cluster will, using languages of social justice and feminist critique, examine issues of continued and lingering colonialism and class, race and gender inequalities in the history of international law. It will seek to find new and progressive ways to respond to the social problems of the world. 



Australian National Report on Online Legal Education

Professor Trish Mundy (UOW) and Professor William van Caenegem (Bond) have been appointed Special National Reporters as part of a project being conducted by the International Academy of Comparative Law that aims to compare ‘Online Legal Education’ across over jurisdictions around the world, including Australia. Mundy and van Caenegem have prepared the Australian National Report which will form part of the General Report to be presented at the IACL Congress being hosted over 23-28 October 2022 in Asuncion (Paraguay). The General Reporters for this project are Professor Luke Nottage of the University of Sydney and Professor Makoto Ibusuki of Seijo University.