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RSM2127H – Economic Environment of International Business

General Information


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Instructor Bio

Daniel Trefler is the Chair in Competitiveness and Prosperity at the Rotman School of Management. His research has been recognized with numerous distinctions such as the 2016 Killam Prize in Social Sciences (Canada’s ‘Nobel Prize’) and the 2021 Bank of Canada Fellowship Award. He has given invited public lectures from Boston to Beijing and his work has been cited by the Nobel Committee, the World Trade Organization (WTO), New York Times, Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, and The Economist. Currently, he is working with Global Affairs Canada and the WTO on adapting international trade law to deal with the rise of China. He is also an expert on AI and recently has been studying the implications of AI for the international mobile app ecosystem.

Target Audience

This course is designed for students interested in today’s globalization issues, including students with business, legal and general-interest perspectives.


2 classes per week, over 6 weeks from March 6 – April 12

Course Mission

This course will introduce overarching economic frameworks and apply them to pragmatic examples of business and legal issues that feature in today’s news.  Ever wonder about big international questions like why is China so successful? Do we need a Canadian industrial policy? Did Trump make America great again? Was USMCA a good deal for Canada? Will COVID-19 bring back supply chains from East Asia? Will sanctions against Russia or China work? What is driving inflation? Moreover, do you wonder what your business should be addressing as it enters China or rushes to protect itself from foreign competitors? This class will provide empirical context and economic tools to help students answer these questions for themselves.

Course Scope

The course kicks off with an in-depth look at doing business in China. We then develop a rich framework for thinking about how innovation builds core competencies that enhance a business’s international competitiveness. We also examine global value chains, which determine a business’s choice of where to develop products and explains “clusters” of industry-specific capabilities. With this framework in place, we draw out key business implications. We also use the framework to address the broader questions raised above in the “Course Mission”. At least one lecture will be devoted to international trade law and how it can be used by your business. We conclude with a simple model to understand how hedging in international financial markets affects exchange rates and inflation.

Class discussion is central. Also, there is a group project in which you will pick a company that is faltering in the face of Chinese competition and you will develop a strategic plan forward.

Evaluation and Grade Distribution

ComponentDue DateWeight
First TestMonday, March 20, start of class (tentative date)15%
Second TestMonday, March 27, start of class (tentative date)15%
Group ReportDuring exam period30%
Final ExamSunday, April 16, 11:59PM (tentative date)40%

Required Resources

The course will be based on a course package largely designed by the instructor. Students are not required to independently purchase any materials.

Last Updated: 2023-02-17 @ 2:23 pm