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International Law FAQ

What is international law? 

International law encompasses treaties between countries; multi-lateral agreements; some commissions covering particular subjects, such as whaling or copyrights; procedures and precedents of the International Court of Justice ("World Court") which only has jurisdiction when countries agree to appear; the United Nations Charter; and custom. Recently, the customary law was codified in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. There is no specific body of law which governs the relations of all nations. Public international law deals with rights between several nations or nations and the citizens or subjects of other nations. In contrast, private international law deals with controversies between private persons, arising out of situations having significant relationship to more than one nation.

How is international law created? 

International law may be defined as a body of law formed as a result of international cus-toms, treaties, and organizations that governs relations among or between nations. International Customs are customs evolved over the centuries. Treaties and International Agreements are agreements between or among nations. International Organizations and Conferences are composed mainly of nations and usually established by treaty - for example, the 1980 Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, or CISG.

Conventional international law derives from international agreements and may take any form that the contracting parties agree upon. Agreements may be made in respect to any matter except to the extent that the agreement conflicts with the rules of international law incorporating basic standards of international conduct or the obligations of a member state under the Charter of the United Nations. The United Nations, is the most influential international organization, and was created on June 26, 1945. The declared purposes of United Nations are to maintain peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems, and to be a center for harmonizing the actions of the nations and attaining their common ends. The Charter of the United Nations has been adhered to by virtually all states. Even the few remaining non-member states have adhered tp the principles it established. The International Court of Justice is established by the UN Charter as its principal judicial organ.

To minimize international trade barriers, most of the world's leading trade nations abide by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Each member country agrees to treat other members at least as well as it treats the country that receives its most favorable treatment (normal trade relations (NTR) status). Regional trade agreements that help to minimize barriers include the European Union (EU), the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and the Central America-Dominican Republic-United States Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR).


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