The Past, Present, and Potential of Economic Security

Event date
7 March 2024
Event time
12:45 - 14:00
Oxford week
HT 8
The Old Library - All Souls College and Online

Professor Mona Paulsen, London School of Economics and Political Science, Law School 

Notes & Changes

To join (whether in person or online), please complete the Registration Form above by 5:30pm on Wednesday 6 March 2024. The Zoom link will be sent after that time. Please note that if you register for online attendance after this time, a Zoom link may not be sent to you. If joining in person, registration is helpful but not essential.


This article responds to industrial economies’ ever-frequent invocation of economic security to indefinitely justify activities that impair other states’ trade within the post-war global economic order. This historical contribution shows how governments have long grappled with state interventions on critical materials, unpacking questions of self-sufficiency, conservation, and defeating foreign economic competitors within the embryonic postwar global economic order through richly detailed archival research. History explains how security was not exceptional but structural to organising competitive conditions among products, as within the founding of international trade institutions. Further, history elucidates how the postwar international trade architecture developed as US officials stressed coordination of economic growth and its link to military capabilities to strengthen the liberal ‘free world’ relative to the communist adversary.

To support this argument, I investigate the configuring of resource competition, power, and trade multilateralism through the analytic lens of the Cold War. Using archival research, I explore two studies where the US used trade as a weapon to shore up alliances and attack adversaries in critical resource competition in the Cold War era. First, the US adopted unilateral trade controls to bar exports of technology and materials to Eastern Europe. While US businesses and Congress approved this strategy, the nascent international community under the GATT offered targeted support to the US without confirming the legality, morality, or longevity of US plans. Second, the US established a conference of ‘free world’ economies to allocate the short supply of selective critical minerals and commodities after the invasion of Korea in 1950 – in what one US congressperson called a ‘super-government’ cartel. I redescribe the contingent character of these legal structures, showing the functions (and limits) of economic planning and military preparedness when governments and firms – fresh off the Second World War experience – demanded economic security and access to strategic supplies.


Dr Mona Paulsen (@loyaladvisor) is an Assistant Professor at the London School of Economics and Political Science Law School. She specialises in international trade law and economic security, in addition to research and teaching interests in international investment law, international development, and international political economy. In addition to her research, Dr. Paulsen serves on the editorial board for the World Trade Review and is a co-convenor of the International Economic Law & Politics Workshop.


The Public International Law Discussion Group at the University of Oxford is a key focal point for PIL@Oxford and hosts regular speaker events. Topics involve contemporary and challenging issues in international law. Speakers include distinguished international law practitioners, academics, and legal advisers from around the world.

PIL Discussion Group Convenor: Ayako Hatano

The Discussion Group's meetings are part of the programme of the British Branch of the International Law Association and are supported by the Law Faculty and Oxford University Press.

The speaker will commence at 12:45pm UK Time and the speaker will present for around 30-40 minutes, with around 30 minutes for questions and discussion. The meeting should conclude by 2pm UK Time.

Practitioners, academics and students from within and outside the University of Oxford are all welcome.

Found within

Public International Law