What are the Different Fields of International Economic Law?

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  • Written By: Terry Masters
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 08 August 2018
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There are various fields of study under the topic of international economic law, including the law of trade, international business regulation, economic development of under developed countries, international commercial arbitration, the law supporting regional integration of markets, international intellectual property law, and certain aspects of environmental law. International economic law was historically only concerned with the nation-to-nation agreements behind open markets and free trade, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement. With the globalization of world markets since the turn of the 21st century, the definition of this type of law has broadened to include all aspects of international law that touch on the market economics and business transactions between nations and private business entities, between cross-border business entities, and between private business entities and foreign consumer markets.

International economic law is comprised of the legal trade agreements and treatises that support cross-national commercial transactions. The exact parameters of what falls under this umbrella has been changing as the world economic landscape changes in response to the increased globalization of markets. What business and law schools used to label as international business law has morphed in the curricula of many of the world’s most prestigious institutions and is now known as international economic law. Some schools' international business law journals, for example, have repositioned themselves as international economic law journals, and handle the broader application of the topic.


The topics that most scholars and academics would typically include under the international economic law heading fall into three categories. First is economic law between nations, including trade agreements and development policy and projects as applied to under development nations. Second is the economic law between foreign businesses and nations where they want to set up operations, including business regulation and access to markets. Third is cross-border business relations between businesses registered in different countries, including commercial arbitration and intellectual property rights.

Ancillary to the three categories of relations are two areas of study under international economic law that concern themselves with activity that has international implications but is insular to a nation or group in some respect. An example would be the study of the regional integration of markets, such as the creation of the European Union and the stability of the Euro. Access to markets or the environmental impact policy of businesses relocating overseas would fall under this area. International economic law is not fixed in stone, however, and can include other areas of international law as it touches on economics, markets, and business transactions.


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