Structure of International Economic Law

Over the last 125 years, the structure and landscape of International Economic Law evolved from informal common law principles into a web of treaties, agreements, international organizations, NGO’s and corporations.

The largest leap forward was the period beginning in 1944 with the Bretton Woods agreements and the establishment of the IMF, the World Bank and the GATT.  These three institutions are responsible for facilitating International reconstruction and development (World Bank), establishing and stabilizing monetary policy (IMF) and regulating international trade (ITO/GATT). The ITO failed to get ratified by the US Senate, so the enabling framework, GATT, served as the primary trade organization until the establishment of the WTO as party of the Uruguay round in 1994.

At about the same time, in 1945, the Allied powers established the United Nations.  Within the UN structure, we’ve seen the 1962 Statement on Permanent Sovereignty of Natural Resources and the 1972 CERDS Agreement.  These two agreements are the key governing agreements for modern international economic law.  The UN also runs through UNCTAD, as well as the World Bank and IMF as specialized UN agencies.

In 1995, we saw the official “start up” of the WTO as a result of the Uruguay round.  The WTO’s role is to facilitate the implementation of the various treaties and agreements between member states.