International trade law

International trade law

International trade law includes the appropriate rules and customs for handling trade between countries or between private companies across borders. Over the past twenty years, it has become one of the fastest growing areas of international law.


International trade law should be distinguished from the broader field of international economic law. The latter could be said to encompass not only WTO law, but also law governing the international monetary system and currency regulation, as well as the law of international development.

The body of rules for transnational trade in the 21st century derives from medieval commercial laws called the "lex mercatoria" and "lex maritima" — respectively, "the law for merchants on land" and "the law for merchants on sea." Modern trade law (extending beyond bilateral treaties) began shortly after the Second World War, with the negotiation of a multilateral treaty to deal with trade in goods: the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT).

International trade law is based on theories of economic liberalism developed in Europe and later the United States from the 18th century onwards.

World Trade Organization

In 1995, the World Trade Organization, a formal international organization to regulate trade, was established. It is the most important development in the history of international trade law.

The purposes and structure of the organization is governed by the "Agreement Establishing The World Trade Organization", also known as the "Marrakesh Agreement". It does not specify the actual rules that govern international trade in specific areas. These are found in separate treaties, annexed to the Marrakesh Agreement.

Trade in goods

The GATT has been the backbone of international trade law throughout most of the twentieth century. It contains rules relating to "unfair" trading practices — dumping and subsidies.

Dispute settlement

Since there are no international governing judges (2004) the means of dispute resolution is determined by jurisdiction. Each individual country hears cases that are brought before them. Governments choose to be party to a dispute. And private citizens determine jurisdiction by the Forum Clause in their contract.

Besides forum, another factor in international disputes is the rate of exchange. With currency fluctuation ascending and descending over years, a lack of Commerce Clause can jeopardize trade between parties when one party becomes unjustly enriched through natural market fluctuations. By listing the rate of exchange expected over the contract life, parties can provide for changes in the market through reassessment of contract or division of exchange rate fluctuations.

See also

* International trade

External links

* [ International Bar Association]
* [ International Trade Center - a UN organization]
* [ Trade Law Centre for Southern Africa]
* [ World Trade Institute - at the University of Berne]
* [ World Trade Organization - WTO]

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