International Trade Law

Refers the appropriate rules and customs for handling trade between countries. However, it is also used in legal writings as trade between private sectors, which is not right anymore. This branch of law is now an independent field of study as most governments have become part of the world trade, as members of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Since the transaction between private sectors of different countries is an important part of the WTO activities, this latter branch of law is now a very important part of the academic works and is under study in many universities across the world.

There is a difference between International trade law and 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 the 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.

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