International Trade Law


Sources of International Trade Law


The constitutional, federal and international laws monitor international trade between the United States and other countries. Various trade issues like customs duties, dumping, embargoes, free trade zones, subsides, etc. are addressed by the Federal and international laws. Article 1 of the constitution laws of U.S. allows the Congress to manage commerce with foreign countries.

The U.S. constitution article II gives power to the President to make treaties himself under approval from the Senate. Many international treaties and trade agreements have been negotiated by presidents under this law.


International Trade Administration Overview


The International Trade Administration (ITA) serves the purpose of strengthening the U.S trade industry, promoting U.S. trade and investments and enforcing the trade laws and agreements to ensure fair trade. ITA consists of four unique business units.


  1. U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service
  2. Manufacturing and Services
  3. Market Access and Compliance
  4. Import Administration

Read a more elaborative overview of International Trade Law here.


Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures


Sanitary (human and animal health) and phytosanitary (plant heath) measures are applied to domestically grown foods and local animal and plant diseases, and also on products that come from other countries. Governments can take measures to protect human, animal or plant health from trade under the article 20 of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It is safer to apply international safety standards on goods to avoid being challenged legally by the World Trade Organization (WTO).


Agriculture Trade


The GATT was applicable on agricultural trade originally, but traders were able to find loopholes to avoid the rules. For instance, it permitted countries to use some non-tariff measures like import quotas which caused a highly distorted agricultural trade. The first multilateral agreements were produced by the Uruguay Round which proved to be the first step towards a less distorted sector.

Read more about the Agricultural Agreement here.


Rules of Origin


These criteria are used to define the place of production of the product. They are also used to compile trade statistics and the “made in…” tags that are attached to products. The Rules of Origin Agreement requires transparency in the rules of origin by the WRO members. Transparency means that the rules do not have restricting, distorting or disruptive effects on international trade.

Read more about the WTO rules of origin here.


Multi Fibre Arrangement (Textile)


The Multi Fibre Arrangement (MFA) was set to govern the trade of textiles and garments by imposing quotas on the number of exports developing countries could export.  This arrangement was imposed because the labor cost in developing countries is very low due to their poor social insurance systems, resulting is production of large amounts of products.

Find out more about the MFA here.


Dispute Settlement in the WTO


One of the main tasks of the WTO is to resolve trade disputes which arise when suspicion among government members violating any agreement or commitment made in the WTO occurs. Having one of the world’s most active international dispute settlement mechanisms, WTO has solved over 350 dispute since 1995.

Find out more about how the WTO deals with disputes here.


An informal guide to ‘WTO Speak’


A glossary of trade terms and definitions provided by the WTO. 


International Trade Law News


You can find the latest international trade law news here.