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International Trade Law Resources on the Internet

International trade law is a very complex and continuously expanding area with basically four levels of international trade relationships:

  • unilateral measures (national law),
  • bilateral relationships (i.e. Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement),
  • plurilateral agreements, and
  • multilateral arrangements (i.e. GATT/WTO).


The focus of this guide is on international trade generally and on some of the major bilateral or multilateral agreements: NAFTA, GATT/WTO, FTA, and CAFTA. Plurilateral agreements are left out as they by nature only cover a particular interest in the subject of the treaty among st a limited number of states. One of the major drawbacks when researching international trade law is, that their is not a codified publications system or central database developed for international law researchers. But thanks to the internet, most organizations devoted to liberalizing international trade make a great number of legislation and accompanying documents available on the web. Internet resources have thus become an important source, if not the only one, to retrieve updated information on international trade law.

Consequently this guide provides links to major international and regional trade organizations with brief annotations. Some primary legal documents on trade law are linked with full text. The guide is broken-up into the following five sections:

The United States and International Trade

Texas and International Trade


U.S. Governmental International Trade

The USTR was created by Congress in the Trade Expansion Act of 1962. It was authorized to set and administer overall trade policy. As a chief trade negotiator, USTR represents the United States in the major international trade organizations.

As a lead unit for trade in the Department of Commerce, the ITA promotes U.S. exports of manufactured goods, nonagricultural commodities and services. ITA provides U.S. business with information on market access to the international market and protects U.S. business from dumped and subsidized imports.

IA enforces laws and agreements to prevent unfairly traded imports and to protect jobs and the competitive strength of American industry. Here is the overview of the IA. The latest investigations of alleged foreign trade are available in pdf files from "Highlights and News" in right hand column.

Includes active, binding agreements between the United States and its trading partners covering manufactured products and services (excluding agriculture agreements). An excellent source for searching treaties and agreements!

The ITC was established by Congress in 1916 as the U.S. Tariff Commission. The Trade Act of 1974 renamed it as the U.S. International Trade Commission. It has broad investigative powers on trade issues and serves as a national resource where trade data is gathered and analyzed. The ITC provides both the President and Congress with trade information on which U.S. trade policy is based.

CIT was established in 1980 as the successor to the Court of Customs. It provides judicial review of any final determinations by the ITA and ITC. (Folsom, International Trade and Investment in a nutshell 2ed. West Group 2000 p.147.)

Ex-Im Bank was created in 1934 to aid in financing and to facilitate U.S. exports. While its authority to conduct new business has lapsed, Ex-Im Bank's website is still a useful source of information.

Hosted by the U.S. Department of State, this website provides a list of treaties and other international agreements of the United States. Agreements on trade issues are available.

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International Organizations

The WTO's official site is a comprehensive source for doing international trade law research. However, since this site contains a huge amount of documents and the navigation is very complicated, sufficiently surfing this site may not be as easy as flipping a real book. So for new viewers, it is recommended to read How to Find Your Way Around www.wto.org first. For experienced researchers, good starting points are the directory and site map.

To understand the structure of the the organization, who's who and the mechanism of how the WTO works, see What is the WTO? To locate documents on trade issues, see WTO Trade Topics which includes rules and regulations on trade in goods, services, intellectual property and trade dispute settlement and other issues such as investment, e-commerce. To search for economic data of world trade, WTO publications, documents, legal texts, see Documents and Resources.

The WTO also maintains useful resources on dispute settlement.

ICC is a world business organization founded in 1919. It promotes international trade and investment and market economy. ICC lays out rules governing cross border trade. The rules are observed by international businesses on a voluntary basis.

A leading organization for international trade dispute settlement.

UNCITRAL is the core legal body on trade within the United Nations system. It promotes the progressive harmonization and unification of international trade law.

Established in 1964 as a permanent intergovernmental body, UNCTAD is the principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly dealing with trade, investment and development issues.

The idea of establishing IMF was conceived in 1944 at a United Nations Conference which was held in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire. It came to official existence in 1945. Now the IMF has 184 member countries. The objective of the IMF is to promote international monetary cooperation and to foster economic growth and high levels of employment.

Founded in 1944, the World Bank Group is one of the world's largest sources of development assistance. The Bank provided US$19.5 billion in loans to its client countries in fiscal year 2002, is now working in more than 100 developing economies.

PCA was founded in The Hague in 1899 during the first Hague Peace Conference. The 1899 Convention, which provided the legal basis for the PCA, was revised at the second Hague Peace Conference in 1907. There are currently 97 States which are parties to one or both of the Conventions.

Labor standards are hot issues that are often raised in international trade disputes. The ILO is the UN specialized agency that promotes social justice and internationally recognized human and lab our rights. It was founded in 1919.

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Regional Trade Organizations

Regional Trade-North America

The site of the NAFTA secretariat with information on the dispute settlement proceedings, legal texts and panel decisions and reports respecting the NAFTA.

Provides trade agreements (full text) between Central and South America Countries as well as with the U.S. , Canada and the European Union.


Regional Trade-Europe

The EFTA was established in 1960 based on a Convention signed in Stockholm. Now the Association includes 4 member states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, with headquarters in Geneva and offices in Brussels and Luxembourg. The main objective of the EFTA is to provide a framework for the liberalization of trade in all forms among its member countries. The EFTA countries also maintain close trade relations with EU countries.

The EEA was created in 1994 and allows the EEA EFTA States (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to participate in the Internal Market.


Regional Trade-Asia/Pacific

The APEC was established in 1989 with a goal of advancing Asia-Pacific economic corporations and trade. The U.S. is a member of the APEC.

A regional organization to promote economic growth, social progress, culture development and regional peace.

The OPEC is an international organization of countries which rely heavily on oil revenue. It was created at the Baghdad Conference in 1960, by Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. Currently the OPEC has 12 members--Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. The 12 member states of the OPEC collectively supply the majority of the world's oil output, and possess more than three-quarters of the world's total proven crude oil reserves.


Regional Trade-Africa

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

The ECOWAS is a regional group of fifteen countries, founded in 1975. Its mission is to promote economic integration in all fields of economic activity.


Regional Trade-Central and South America

The objective of FTAA is to integrate the economies of the Western Hemisphere into a single free trade arrangement.

The objective of the OAS is to achieve an order of peace and justice, to promote solidarity, to strengthen collaboration, and to defend its members' sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.

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Trade Statistics

The official source for U.S. export and import statistics collected by the U.S. Census Bureau; responsible for issuing regulations governing the reporting of all export shipments from the United States.

A part of the U.S. International Trade Administration, OTPA provides information and analysis pertaining to issues affecting U.S. industry competitiveness to facilitate the establishment of sound policies that contribute to U.S. economic welfare.

Information collected by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis to promote a better understanding of the economy by providing the most timely, relevant, and accurate economic accounts data in an objective and cost-effective manner.

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Other Guides

Created and hosted by the American Society of International Law.

Published by the Hauser Global Law School Program at NYU School of Law. This guide contains links to other international, comparative and foreign law research guides.

Created by Marci Hoffman at the Georgetown University Law Center's E.B. Williams Law Library. This guide provides excellent research strategy and treaty sources.

Hosted by Pace University's Institute of International Commercial Law. A comprehensive source for information on contracts for the international sale of goods (CISG).

Hosted by the Cornell International Law School; a comprehensive source for finding primary law regarding on international trade.

Hosted by Harvard University. A useful collection of news reports and links to resources on global trade.

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Guide by Chenglin Liu, last updated in January 2015 by Daniel Donahue, International & Foreign Law Librarian.

University of Houston Law Center • O'Quinn Law Library • 12 Law Library • Houston, TX 77204-6054 • (713) 743-2300