Features - Revised Guide to International Trade Law Sources on the Internet

Marci Hoffman is the International & Foreign Law Librarian at the E.B. Williams Law Library, Georgetown University Law Center. In addition to her reference and research expertise, Marci often lectures on foreign and international legal research. Marci and Prof. David Weissbrodt also designed and maintain the University of Minnesota Human Rights Library on the Web. She is the editor and an author of several chapter of the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law.


Introduction

Goods and services are sold every day across national boundaries. These transactions are subject to a myriad of laws, regulations, restrictions and special arrangements. This complex web of laws and regulations is comprised of unilateral measures, meaning national or domestic laws, and further complicated by the international law expressed in trade agreements. There are basically three levels of international trade agreements: bilateral relationships (Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement), multilateral arrangements (GATT and the WTO), and regional agreements (NAFTA, MERCOSUR).

When conducting research in international trade, often the first step is to locate the relevant treaties. Since international trade is such a complex area, there is a need for information beyond locating the text of international agreements. Many international organizations focus on trade and transnational business transactions and provide useful resources. U.S. governmental agencies offer many resources to assist companies with import and export ventures. Dispute resolution is of particular importance in international trade, especially for NAFTA and the WTO. Guides on doing business in a particular country may be of use in determining the impact of trade agreements, applicable domestic laws, and other country conditions that might affect trade. Finally, statistics on economic growth, imports and exports, and other data are often needed in order to make sound decisions. These are just a few of the many different pieces of information needed in this complex and ever expanding area.1

One guide cannot possibly provide access to all trade and related information available on the Internet. The focus of this fully annotated guide is on some of the most useful international trade sites. Specifically, this guide will cover the following:

While the Internet is a good tool for accessing information about international trade, it cannot provide all of the materials needed for researching this topic. Many valuable secondary sources are not available on the Internet. Most of the information and documents referred to in this guide are provided by international organizations, the U.S. Government, or an educational institution and are free of charge, but a few fee-based sites are included as well. Care should be taken when citing to and relying upon any document or information obtained from the Internet.

Where to Start

As with any topic, it is helpful to start with a guide or list of links – a place where someone else has done some of the work for you. These resources can be of particular use to the researcher who is unfamiliar with the area of international trade. In addition to these electronic guides, there are several useful print sources.2

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Research Guides

American Society of International Law, Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law . The chapters on researching international economic law, treaties , the UN, private international law, international organizations, and international commercial arbitration are particularly helpful for the international trade researcher.

WTO/GATT Research, by Jeanne Rehberg, New York University School of Law Library, September 2001. This focus of this excellent guide is both print and electronic sources for WTO and GATT research.

Researching International Trade Law, prepared by the Georgetown University Law Library, September 2001. The guide focuses on print and electronic sources for researching the U.S.- Canada Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, the FTAA, and the GATT/WTO. This guide was prepared for use at the Georgetown University Law Library. See also the guide that focuses specifically on the GATT and the WTO.

The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: Guide to Research and Literature, by Claire Germain, Cornell University Law School. This detailed research guide that explains the history of the agreement and provides references to relevant print and electronic sources.

The Harvard Law Library offers a research guide focusing the World Trade Organization. This guide contains references to print sources contained in the Harvard Law Library as well as links to web sites.

Bibliographies

The U.S. Trade Commission (USTC) law library offers a “Bibliography of Trade-Related Law Journal Articles.” The coverage is from 1970 to present.

Bibliography on the CISG and UNIDROIT Principles, Pace University School of Law. Contains references to print and electronic sources and can be searched by keywords. This resource is available in a number of different languages.

Web Collections

Hieros Gamos, Guide to Global Trade Law. An extensive collection of links to agreements, national regimes, other sources of information, discussion groups, and publications.

Researching International Economic Law on the Internet. This site was created and is maintained by the International Department of the Georgetown University Law Library. It provides access to selected sites that focus on international economic issues (trade, competition, finance, etc.) Access is by topic or by collection (best sites, international instruments, cases, etc.). There are annotations and legal citations for many of the entries.

WorldTradeLaw.net: The Online Source for World Trade Law. This new site provides access agreements (1947 GATT included), GATT and WTO dispute settlement reports, and a full-text search mechanism for the panel reports. They also prepare excellent dispute settlement commentaries for the WTO panel and appellate body reports. These commentaries are available by subscription. The researcher will find plenty of useful information, even without subscribing to the commentaries.

Several other good collections of links are available, Trade Information Index, compiled by the International Trade Centre. The site organizes web resources by country/region, topic, and an alphabetical listing of sites. See also the Federation of International Trade Associations provides International Trade Web Resources, an annotated index of more than 4000 links to web sites related to international trade. You can browse the topics or search by keyword. For more information on economic generally, see WebEc (WWW Resources in Economic). This site categorizes free sites related to economics such as, economics data, international economics, law and economics, and regional economics.

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International Agreements

Collections

The sites listed below provide the complete text of many international trade and related agreements plus links to a variety of other useful trade-related sites on the web. Most of these web sites are good places to begin one's research.

  • Lex Mercatoria (International Trade/Commercial Law Monitor). This web site has many international agreements and documents in trade and related areas (contracts, sales, arbitration, etc.). Organized by major categories, this site offers a subject index, a search mechanism, and links to other sites. While this site now contains many advertisements for books and materials published by Cameron May, it is still a useful resource.

  • Trade and Commercial Relations (Multilaterals Project, Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy). A good collection of basic trade related agreements with links to a few important treaty collections and treaty secretariats. This site also provides a search mechanism.

  • Texts of Trade Agreements (Foreign Trade Information Center, OAS). This is an excellent collection of trade agreements between countries in the Western Hemisphere (both bilateral and multilateral). Many of documents are available in English, French, and Spanish. The home page of the OAS Trade Unit contains information on competition policy, investment, intellectual property, and dispute settlement (Andean Community, GATT, NAFTA, and WTO), and links to official sources for trade and investment information.

  • Trade and Related Agreements (Trade Compliance Center, U.S. Dept. of Commerce). Contains the texts of most trade agreements to which the United States is a party and related documents that are important to business. Documents are arranged by agreement or treaty title, by country/signatory, and by issue. In addition, the texts in the database can be searched by keyword.

  • Private International Law Database (U.S. Dept. of State). This newly redesigned site provides information on private international law transactions. See the Transactions Law section for the text of agreements on a variety of areas: EDI, arbitration, finance and banking, and contracts. There are also sections covering model laws and rules, conventions where the U.S. is a party, and other useful information. For more information on web sites related to private international law, see the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law: Private International Law.

  • UN Treaty Collection. This site contains the over 40,000 bilateral and multilateral treaties available from the United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS), a collection of treaties and international agreements registered or filed and recorded with and published by the Secretariat since 1946. Another very important tool available at this site is Multilateral Treaties Deposited with the Secretary-General, a publication that provides information on the status of 486 major multilateral instruments deposited with the Secretary-general The texts of recently deposited multilateral treaties are also available. This is a subscription database.

  • National Law Center for Inter-American Trade. Contains legislative materials from various Latin American countries, including access to Mexican legislation and the Mexican Diario Oficial. The database contains an extensive collection of links to other legal information resources relating to trade and the Americas, including the full text of certain trade agreements. While this is a fee-based service, much of the international trade information is available for free. There is also a biweekly newsletter, Inter-American Trade Report, which covers trade, commerce, and legal developments across Latin America.

  • Juris International. This collection provides the full text of many conventions, model laws, as well as standards and customs of international trade.Access is by subject, country, or search mechanism. Documents are often available in multiple languages (English, French and Spanish). There is also country ratification information.

  • WorldTradeLaw.net. A recent addition to the Internet, this site provides access to instruments and agreements related to the GATT, WTO, and NAFTA. Many of these documents are available in PDF only. While this is a subscription service, there is a great deal of freely available information.

Major Multilateral and Regional Agreements

Many of the organizations or secretariats for important trade agreements have created web sites aimed at providing information about specific trading arrangements. If you cannot locate a specific trade agreement below, be sure to also check some of the collections mentioned above.

  • Andean Community. Based on the Cartagena Agreement, this pact seeks to harmonize the trade and investment regimes of its members. Its web page contains information about the community, legislation and jurisprudence, and publications and documents. Some of the pages are available only in Spanish.

  • CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market). Established in 1973 to from a common market for trade and to promote economic cooperation among its member states. The site contains information about CARICOM, documents, projects and news.

  • European Free Trade Association (EFTA). EFTA was established in 1960 by Austria, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK with the goal of removing import duties, quotas and other obstacles to trade in Western Europe and of upholding liberal, non-discriminatory practices in world trade. Six members have left EFTA to join the EU and there are now four Member States: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. The site provides access to the legal texts, information sheets, and statistics. From the legal texts page, there is access to a number of free trade agreements, both bilateral and multilateral.

  • Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA). The FTAA is the effort to unite the economies of the Western Hemisphere into a single free trade agreement. This is the official site for the FTAA. It provides the text of the draft agreement, documents from the ministerial meetings, as well as other documents from groups and committees. Other web sites pertaining to FTAA include, Americasnet (Summit of the Americas Center) and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Process hosted by the Organization of American States Trade Unit has background information and documents from the ministerial meetings.

  • MERCOSUR (Southern Cone Common Market Treaty). Created in 1991, its aim is to dismantle trade barriers and encourage cross-border investment. See also the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada MERCOSUR site. This is a very comprehensive site that contains treaties related to MERCOSUR, statistical information, recent developments on integration, and country profiles. The Organization of American States Trade Unit also provides the text of the agreement, protocols, and other related documents.

  • NAFTA Secretariat. Trilateral free trade agreement between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The Secretariat focuses on the dispute settlement provisions of the NAFTA Agreement and the site contains the rules and the panel reports as well as links to other sites.

    Other Relevant NAFTA sites include:

    • NAFTA Home Page (U.S. Dept. of Commerce) provides a variety of information related to NAFTA implementation (customs and rule of origin, investment & services, etc.)

    • NAFTA Resources LANIC's (University of Texas at Austin, Institute of Latin American Studies) links to a number of NAFTA resources, such as documents and publications, academic resources, and other related sites.

    • NAFTA Customs Website (U.S. Customs Office) links to importing and exporting information.

    • NAFTA (OAS Trade Unit). Provides access to the agreement and other useful documents (Joint Statements of Trade Ministers and reports).

  • UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) Database. The CISG is referred to as the “Uniform International Sales Law of countries that account for two-thirds of all world trade.”3 This is a very comprehensive site on the CISG. It contains the text of the agreement, analysis, cases, scholarly materials, and more. The links to other international trade databases includes CISG web sites around the world. Other CISG related sites include UNILEX , a collection international case law and bibliography on the CISG, and the UNCITRAL which site contains the text of the agreement, ratification information, and abstracts of case law that refer to the CISG. For more information about the international sale of goods and related topics, see the Private International Law chapter of the ASIL Guide to Electronic Resources for International Law.

  • World Trade Organization (WTO). The WTO agreements provide for the legal framework for international commerce and trade policy. In the past, obtaining GATT documents was always a challenge unless you had access to the GATT microfiche (which most folks did not have). Now the WTO has entered the electronic age and it’s web site is the mechanism the WTO has chosen for disseminating information. Not only does this site have information about various trade topics (goods, services, development, etc.), more importantly, it contains the full text of most documents distributed by the WTO since its creation in January 1995. central features of the site include: trade topics (very useful introductions to topical areas and the relevant documentation), the legal texts (Uruguay Round agreements); the dispute settlement section (including panel decisions) and Documents Online, the only place to obtain official WTO documents. This database contains WTO documentation from 1995 to the present and is updated daily. It also contains selected documents from 1986-1994, including some Uruguay Round documents and a small number of GATT documents.

  • For the text of the GATT 1947 agreement (rather than GATT 1994, the WTO agreement), see the Multilaterals Project or WorldTradeLaw.net.

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Selected International Organizations

Listed below are some of the major international organizations involved in trade and related issues. In order to locate other international organizations, see International Agencies and Information on the Web at the University of Michigan Documents Center site or the Northwestern University Library, International Organizations page. Both sites provide extensive lists of links to international organizations of all types.

  • ALADI (Latin American Integration Association). Its goal is to form reciprocal trade agreements in this region. The web site is only available in Spanish, but it does contain documents, publications and information about the organization.

  • Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). Its purpose is to sustain regional growth and development by strengthening the trading system between its members and reducing barriers to trade and investment. The APEC web site contains extensive information about the organization and its activities, plus many full-text documents.

  • Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The Member Countries are involved in a joint effort to promote economic cooperation and the welfare of the people in the region. The site contains information about the organization’s activities, documents, summit information, and country profiles.

  • European Union, Directorate General IV, Competition . The mission of the Competition Directorate General is to establish and implement a coherent competition policy for the European Union. It’s main areas of activities are antitrust, merger control, liberalization and state intervention, and state aid. Competition DG also deals with the international dimension of competition policy. The web site provides access to documents, bilateral and multilateral agreements, and EU legislation. See also, EUROPA , the official web site of the EU. It contains information on the institutions, policies, official documents and laws. For European Union law, see EUR-Lex (the EU Law Portal), this site provides access to legislation, treaties and case law. This site also provides the text of EU treaties.

  • G7 & G8. This group of industrialized nations meets to deal with the major economic and political issues facing their domestic economies and the international community as a whole. The site is a good collection of policy documents, scholarly writings, research, and links to related sites.

  • Inter-American Development Bank (IADB). Established in 1959 to help improve economic and social development in Latin America and the Caribbean. There is information about the organization's projects, project documents, country papers and economic assessments and access to the library's catalog.

  • International Monetary Fund (IMF). The IMF is an independent international organization of the UN. Its purpose is to promote international monetary cooperation, expanding international trade and exchange stability, international balance of payments, etc. The web site contains information about the IMF's policies and activities, rules, regulations and documents. The user can also search the database for relevant publications.

  • International Organization for Standardization (ISO).  The ISO is a non-governmental organization established in 1947 to promote the development of standardization and related activities in the world with a view to facilitating the international exchange of goods and services, and to developing cooperation in the spheres of intellectual, scientific, technological and economic activity.  The site contains information about international standards, including ISO 9000 and ISO 14000.

  • Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD). The primary task of the OECD is to enable its members to consult and cooperate with each other in order to achieve the highest sustainable economic growth in their countries and improve the economic and social well-being of their populations. The web site has the full-text of many documents, information about publications and statistics. There is also a page devoted to trade. Check out the links to Other Trade Sites, including national trade agencies, statistical agencies, and international and regional organizations.

  • Summit of the Americas Information Network. While not really an international organization, the Office of Summit Follow-Up (OSFU) was created to advise the OAS on matters related to the Summit Follw-Up. There is a very handy Index of Issues that allows for quick access to many important documents related to trade and other issues in the hemisphere. Summit documents are also available from this site.

  • Trade and Development Centre, a joint venture between the World Bank and the WTO. The site contains forums, guides, training information, and links to other trade-related sites.

  • United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). This organization is the core legal body of the UN charged with harmonization and unification of international trade law. The web site contains the documents resulting from the work of UNCITRAL (including sales of goods, arbitration, etc.), ratification information, abstracts of case law, and other information.

  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). The principal organ of the United Nations General Assembly in the field of trade and development and its aim is to promote better international trading conditions for developing nations. UNCTAD publishes annual reports related to trade (Trade and Development Report, World Investment Report) and information about these and other UNCTAD documents are available on the web site.

  • World Bank. Its purpose is to provide funds and technical assistance to facilitate economic development. The web site is for the World Bank Group which is composed of the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the International Development Association, and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency. The site provides information about these institutions plus documents and data for businesses involved in international trade. The International Trade Division has its own page and it contains working papers and other resources. See also the Global Banking Law Database, a joint project of the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund. This database provides banking and related laws in English from a variety of jurisdictions.

  • World Customs Organization (WCO). This IGO focuses on customs matters.  The site provides the text of customs conventions, recommendations, harmonized systems information, rules of origin information, and links to national customs administrations.

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Dispute Settlement

Of particular importance in the area of international trade is dispute settlement. Various international agreements set out the mechanisms for dispute settlement. The focus is below is NAFTA and GATT/WTO. For background information and commentary on dispute settlement, see the Global Trade Negotiations Dispute Settlement (Harvard University) page. This resource contains many research papers and links on dispute settlement.

General

  • Dispute Settlement (OAS Foreign Trade Information System). Provides the reports from FTA, GATT (1948-1994), NAFTA (chapters 19 & 20), and the WTO (1996-2000).

  • Canadian Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Dispute Settlement. This page links to WTO and NAFTA cases to which Canada is a party.

NAFTA

  • NAFTALAW.ORG. This page is produced and maintained by Todd Weiler, an international trade and investment consultant.  This web site is where you can obtain some information about NAFTA investor-state dispute settlement and obtain copies of recent NAFTA claims.  This site is the is often the only place to obtain many of these documents.

  • Dispute Settlement (Canadian Dept. of Foreign Affairs and International Trade). Contains documents, information, and some decisions related to Canadian Chapter 11 proceedings.

  • NAFTA Investor-State Arbitrations (U.S. Dept. of State). Provides documents and decisions on some cases filed against Canada, the U.S., and Mexico. This is a long awaited and welcome addition to the State Department’s site.

  • Dispute Settlement (OAS Foreign Trade Information System). Provides the reports from NAFTA (chapters 19 & 20).

GATT/WTO

  • U.S. Briefs filed in WTO Dispute Settlement Proceedings (USTR). A good collection of U.S submissions (in PDF) in a variety of WTO proceedings.

  • On the WTO web site, you can access all of the WTO panel and appellate body reports. There are a variety of ways to locate what you need: by dispute number, by country, or by type of report. The legal texts and rules are also available.

  • WorldTradeLaw.net. All of the GATT and WTO panel dispute settlement reports are available from this site in PDF. You can search all of the GATT and WTO reports using one convenient search mechanism. Of particular interest are the dispute settlement commentaries (by subscription only). These documents summarize and provide detailed analysis of all WTO Panel and Appellate Body Reports. This site also provides links to governmental submissions in NAFTA and WTO dispute.

  • Dispute Settlement (OAS Foreign Trade Information System). Access to reports from the GATT (1948-1994) and the WTO (1996-2000).

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U.S. Government Resources

Many U.S. Government agencies promote free trade and offer resources in support of these efforts.

  • International Trade Administration (Dept. of Commerce). The ITA is charged with assisting and encouraging U.S. exports and ensuring that U.S. businesses have equal access to foreign markets. As such, this web site offers a variety of resources for conducting business overseas. The Regions and Countries page provides access to many ITA web sites that focus on the leading markets of the world.  The markets include Africa and the Near East, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

  • Another service provided by the ITA is the Trade Information Center. This is a comprehensive resource for information on all federal government export assistance programs. The information provided ranges from news and current events, export programs, tariffs and customs information, and country and regional market information. For information on import administration, see the ITA page devoted to this information. It contains suspension agreements, information on antidumping and countervailing duty cases, statistics, and an import document library.

  • Market Access and Compliance (Dept. of Commerce). This site offers U.S. companies a wide range of information on accessing foreign markets. One of the featured sections is the Trade Compliance Center (TCC). This database provides the text of trade agreements, foreign market information, market access reports, and export guides.

  • The Dept. of Commerce also offers the FEDWORLD database, a comprehensive central access point for searching, locating, and acquiring government and business information. Search for government reports and other publications through the NTIS International Trade and Business Bookstore.

  • United States Trade Representative. The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity, direct investment policy, and leading or directing negotiations with other countries on such matters. The site offers agreements negotiated by the USTR, documents, reports and press releases, and information about WTO meeting in Doha. There is a nice collection of Reports and Publications, including the Annual Report of the President of the United States on the Trade Agreements Program and the National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers.

  • International Trade Commission. An independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that provides objective trade expertise to both the legislative and executive branches of government, determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries, and directs actions against certain unfair trade practices. This site contains documents, reports and publications, hearings, links to trade resources, and the Harmonized Tariff Schedule. For more information tariffs and import data, see the Interactive Tariff and Trade DataWeb.

  • U.S. Business Advisor. The International Trade section provides resources and information about country research, exports and imports, investment, and financing. See the country research page for links to many valuable resources on doing business in other countries.

  • STAT-USA (U.S. Department of Commerce). This site delivers economic, business, and international trade information produced by the U.S. Government. Of particular interest are GLOBUS and the National Trade Data Bank (NTDB), these services provide current and historical trade-related releases, international market research, information about trade opportunities, and country analysis information. A good many of the services offered at this site are only accessible by subscription.

  • U.S. Customs Service.  The Importing/Exporting section of the site has a good deal of information about rules and regulations, procedures, statistics and also provides useful forms.

  • United States Court of International Trade. Formerly known as the U.S. Customs Court, this Court has authority to decide any civil action against the United States, its officers, or its agencies arising out of any law pertaining to international trade. The Court's site provides rules and forms (including the new draft rules), information about the court and the judges, and slip opinions from 1999 to present.

  • United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC). This federal appellate court’s jurisdiction includes customs and international trade law appeals from the U.S. Court of International Trade and the U.S. International Trade Commission. At this site, you can obtain copies of the CAFC's opinions and decisions, court rules, information on recent disposition of cases, and a list of pending cases.

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Country Guides

The sites listed below provide guidance on doing business in various countries or regions, information about importing and exporting products, and other useful pieces of advice about the business climate and local customs. For other information about specific countries (legal system, government information, and so forth), see Library of Congress Country Studies, Foreign National Governments Page (Northwestern University Library) or The Electronic Embassy.

  • Arab World Online. This is a project of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce and contains extensive trade and investment information for Arab countries as well as country laws and legal structures that affect trade and investment.

  • Background Notes (U.S. Dept. of State). The Department of State’s Background Notes provides preliminary information on geography, people, government, economy, foreign affairs, history, and human rights of the world’s countries.

  • BISNIS (Business Information Service for the Newly Independent States, U.S. Dept. of Commerce). BISNIS is the site to go to when considering trading with or investing in a Newly Independent State. The Department of Commerce supplies country reports, industry reports, customs information, current U.S. Exports to NIS countries, and sources of finance for business ventures in a NIS country.

  • CEEBICnet (Central and Eastern Europe Business Information Center, U.S. Dept. of Commerce). CEEBICnet is a mirror site to BISNIS. The Department of Commerce also supplies country reports, industry reports, customs information, current U.S. Exports to CEEBIC countries, and sources of finance for business ventures in a CEEBIC country.

  • CIA Publications and Reports. Access to The World Factbook (country profiles), Chiefs of State and Cabinet Members of Foreign Governments, and CIA Maps and Publications.

  • Countries in Africa (Mbendi Information Services). The country profiles contain information on taxation, tariffs, intellectual property, financial indicators, privatization, exchange rates, regulatory framework, and political structure of every African country.

  • Country Fact Sheets (Export-Import Bank of the U.S.). The site contains guidelines for financing, loan information, and risk assessment for international business ventures.

  • Country Library (Tradeport). This site provides information on trade, financing controls, market research reports, and industry sector analysis for most countries of the world.

  • Doing Business Guides (Lex Mundi). Lex Mundi maintains an important legal guide to international business. Country-specific legal issues include energy, choice of business structure, taxation, real estate, resolving commercial disputes, and enforcement of judgments.

  • Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade Practices (U.S. State Dept.). Prepared by the Department of State in accordance with section 2202 of the Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (P.L. 100-418), these reports are intended to provide a comparative analysis of the economic policies and trade practices of countries with which the US has significant economic or trade relationships. Reports from 1993-2000 are available.

  • Regions and Countries (International Trade Administration). This site provides links to various ITA web sites providing trade and investment information.

  • Market Access Reports, Trade Compliance Center (U.S. Dept. of Commerce). This site allows you to access information from a variety of government reports: Country Commercial Guides, National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers, Country Reports on Economic Policy and Trade, Practices, and Trade Policy Review Summaries. You can access the individual reports and do a comprehensive search.

  • Trade Links by Country (University of Texas - Latin American Network Information Center). Links to government agencies, trade associations, chambers of commerce, banks, and trade publications for Central and Latin American countries.

  • U.S. Commercial Service (Dept. of Commerce), Country Commercial Guides. These guides are prepared by US Embassy Staff once a year and contain information on the business and economic situation of various countries as well as the political climate.Each guide contains chapters on trade regulations, investment climate, statistics, and market research. Earlier guides from 1996-2001 are available on the State Department’s archival site.

  • World Bank, Documents and Reports. Previously known as World Development Sources, this site provides access to more than 14,000 documents. There are documents on a country's economic and work sectors, project documents, and research and working papers. Search the database or browse by country or region, document type, or sector.

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Statistics

These statistical sources provide data on country and regional economic growth, imports and exports, commodities, country trade information, and other financial data. Some of the sites listed below also collect statistics on demographics, socio-economic factors, and population.

  • Country Data (World Bank). This site contains statistical information on poverty, structure of the economy, prices and government finance, trade, balance of payments, external debt, resource flows, and key economic indicators.

  • EUROSTAT (Statistical Office of European Communities). EUROSTAT is the European network for distributing official statistics, using uniform rules to harmonize statistical data on all European Union Member States. Economic indicators include national accounts, monetary and financial indicators, external trade numbers, prices and producer price indexes, industrial production, and unemployment.

  • Foreign Trade Statistics (U.S. Census Bureau). Provides links to data on imports and exports by related parties, profiles of U.S. exporting companies, commodity trade data, export classification assistance, and to the Harmonized Tariff Schedule.

  • International Statistical Sites (Center for International Development, Harvard University). A lengthy collection of statistical sources available on the Internet.

  • STAT-USA. The STAT-USA site provides links to the National Trade Data Bank as well as comprehensive data compilation on U.S. Exports by commodity, U.S. Exports by country, U.S. imports by commodity, and U.S. Imports by country. As noted earlier, many of the services available on this site are by subscription only.

  • Statistical Data Source (GlobalEDGE, MSU).  A very comprehensive collection of links to all kinds of global statistics in the areas of economics, trade, investment, etc.

  • Statistics (UN/ECE Statistical Division). Contains statistical information on information technology, economic indicators, social and demographic indicators, the environment, transportation, and trade for Europe, Canada, the United States, and all member countries of the Commonwealth of Independent States including some Asian republics.

  • Statistics and Other Statistical Sources (OECD). The OECD’s site provides statistics on main economic indicators, economies in transition, labor force, agriculture, national accounts, purchasing power parities, capitol stocks, and international trade in goods and services of member countries.

  • Statistics Division (UN, Department of Economic and Social Affairs). This site is an extensive list of statistical compilations on economic, political, social, environmental, and developmental data.

  • STATLinks. Links to Statistical Resources on the Internet (USDA & U.S. Census). This is the ultimate guide for anyone with an interest in statistics. This site provides links to guides to statisticians, government statistical agencies, universities with statistics programs, journals of statistics, and computer software to facilitate statistical work.

  • Trade and Economy: Data and Analysis (International Trade Association, U.S. Dept. of Commerce). The Trade Data section of this site provides U.S. Foreign Trade Highlights, foreign trade monthly data, state export data, and the 10-digit "Harmonized" code defined in the Tariff Schedule (imports) or Schedule B (exports).

  • Trade Statistics (WTO). The WTO site provides access to data on world merchandise trade by region and selected economies, world trade of commercial services by region and selected economies, and selected tables from the WTO’s Annual Report on International Trade Statistics.

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Commentary and Analysis

There are many academic institutions, think tanks, NGOs, industry groups, and advocates who have impressive web sites devoted to international trade and related issues. The ones mentioned below have good collections of scholarly commentary and information. Many of these sites also provide current awareness information. Researchers should note that a thorough search of commentary requires the use of periodical indexes and other sources not covered in this guide.

  • CATO Center for Trade Policy Studies. The aim of this Center is to increase the public’s understanding of the benefits of free trade. The site offers commentary, policy briefings, information about its publications, and free trade FAQs. The Key Trade Issues section provides research, articles, and speeches on selected topics.

  • Trade in Focus, Globalization in Focus, and WTO in Focus. All of these pages are part of Foreign Policy in Focus, an international think tank with a network of more than 650 policy analysts and advocates.This site offers some critical analysis of trade, the WTO, globalization, international financial institutions, and the like.

  • Global Environment and Trade Study (GETS). This web site brings together trade, environment, and development experts to provide information and analysis for reconciling trade and the environment. The Library contains many full-text documents on a variety of topics: bio-diversity, dispute settlement, civil society, genetically modified organisms, and much more. See also GETS View, an online journal.

  • Global Trade Negotiations (Center for International Development, Harvard University). This site provides summaries of various trade issues, papers (links to papers done by academic institutions, think tanks, international organizations, etc.), and links to other sites on the topic. This is a valuable source for commentary and analysis. See also trade news highlights.

  • Institute for International Economics. IIE is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research institution devoted to the study of international economic policy. The site offers a wealth of working papers, policy briefs, speeches and testimony, and hot topic information. See the “Areas of Expertise” section for a listing of the experts affiliated with the Institute.

  • International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD). This NGO provides non-partisan reporting services focusing on international trade and sustainable development. Of particular interest, see Bridges: Weekly Trade News Digest and the Resource Centre.

  • RAVE (Research of Articles and Decisions in Public International Law and European Law). RAVE is a database of recent citations to many international periodicals. Citations start with 1995 and are updated every three months. Links to the full text of the article are sometimes available. See the subject Economics and Finance.

  • WTO Watch (The Information Center on Trade and Sustainable Development). This site provides current information on trade, globalization, and sustainable development. Sponsored by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, it offers documents on a variety of topics, news bulletins, and interviews. It also links to other relevant organizations.

  • There are also several very good fee-based services that offer commentary and current news information. While this article will not go into much detail, there are a few worth noting: World Trade Agenda (available in print and electronic form, plus an electronic archive); World Trade Online (the electronic version of Inside U.S. Trade, the web site provides a complete archive of the print and many other valuable documents); and several BNA products, such as the WTO Reporter, International Trade Daily and the International Trade Reporter.

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Conclusion

Before concluding, I want to mention a new a new project that recently entered the web scene, the WTO History Project. This is a “joint effort of several programs at the University of Washington - the Harry Bridges Center for Labor Studies, the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement, the Digital Initiatives project and the Manuscripts, Special Collections and University Archives (MSCUA) division of the University Libraries.” This project was created largely in response to the protests during the WTO Ministerial meetings in Seattle, Washington on November 29-December 3, 1999. The collection contains photographs, signs, fliers, planning documents, and audio and video clips. Access is by document type, issue, organization, and intended purpose. This is a unique collection of materials.

The sites listed above just scratch the surface of the complex topic of international trade. These sources should provide the basic agreements and offer other resources for obtaining more trade-related information.The practitioner and the researcher may find themselves delving into other areas related to international trade, such as exports and imports, contracts, antitrust, agency and distribution, insurance, letters of credit, taxation, and arbitration. Not to mention the need for the domestic laws of the country where the goods and service are being bought or sold. Some of the guides and links mentioned in section II of this guide provide guidance on researching these related topics.

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Footnotes

1 For more information about the complexity of this subject, see Ralph H. Folsom et al., International Trade and Investment in a Nutshell (St. Paul, Minn., West Publishing Co., 1996). <back to text>
2 Such sources include The International Lawyers Deskbook (Washington, DC : Section of International Law and Practice,American Bar Association, 1996), Mae N. Schreiber, International Trade Sources: A Research Guide (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1997) and Introduction to International Business Law: Legal Transactions in a Global Economy (Gitelle Seer and Maria Smolka -Day eds., New York: Oceana Publications, 1996). For definitions of trade terms, acronyms, and abbreviations, see Jerry M. Rosenberg, Dictionary of International Trade (New York: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1994).  <back to text>
3 Pace University School of Law, Pace Law Library and the Institute of International Commercial Law, UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) Database, http://cisgw3.law.pace.edu/.  <back to text>