tralac short course: Reading and Interpreting International Trade Agreements


tralac short course: Reading and Interpreting International Trade Agreements

tralac short course: Reading and Interpreting International Trade Agreements


Case study of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA)


Trade agreements are treaties regulating cross-border trade between two or more nations. These agreements establish trade-related rights and obligations between state parties. Unlike traditional trade agreements which covered trade in goods only, modern trade agreements cover a range of trade-related issues such as trade in services, investment, intellectual property rights, competition policy, electronic commerce, trade and gender, sustainable development and public procurement, among others. International trade law or agreements have their own terminology and language which is difficult to understand or interpret for non-lawyers. Because of the complex terms and language, there has been increasing misinformation, misunderstanding or misinterpretation of trade-related information or news. It is against this background that (tralac) facilitates training on the interpretation of trade agreements.

Objectives and focus of the short course

This training seeks to provide a basic understanding of international trade law or agreements terminology and language. In particular, in module 1 the training will look at what are: trade agreements and their effects; types of trade agreements (bilateral, regional, plurilateral and multilateral) as well as their nature and effects. The training will also focus on how trade agreements are negotiated, enter into force and applied at both national and international levels. The training will look at how trade agreements are interpreted with a view to determining legally binding provisions, absolute obligations or best endeavours. The training will also provide understanding on how trade agreements are amended.

In module 2 we will examine the legal instruments of the African Continental Free Trade Area: the Agreement establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area, the Protocol on Trade in Goods (with its Annexes), the Protocol on Trade in Services and the Protocol on Dispute Settlement. We will also focus on the ongoing negotiations and the phase 2 negotiating agenda.

Tools to be used

Rules of treaty interpretation will be used during this training – including the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, international trade judgments/decisions, and illustrations from practical case examples.

Who should participate in this course?

The course is designed for trade policy practitioners, the private sector, trade officials and officials at continental and regional economic community institutions and trade journalists.

Course modules

The course will be offered virtually (interactive virtual classrooms) on zoom (links to be provided).

Due to the overwhelming interest and large number of applications received, we are running this course three times this year:

  • Intake 1: 27-28 August and 3-4 September;

  • Intake 2: 10-11 and 17-18 September;

  • Intake 3: 5-6 and 12-13 November.

Participants who attend and participate in all sessions will receive a ‘Certificate of Participation’.


Please note that applications for 2020 have closed and all intakes are fully subscribed.

We will offer this course again in 2021.

You are welcome to contact us for further details. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. using the subject line: “Short course – Reading and Interpreting Trade Agreements”.