Return to Articles, Column No. 48, February 1999

Copyright 1999 Robert J. Ambrogi


Worldwide Commerce on the Worldwide Web

By Robert J. Ambrogi

Just as the Internet has made the world seem smaller, it has fertilized the growth of global commerce. The ease of cross-border contact it has made possible has led to a surge in international trade.

For lawyers, this means that the law of international trade can no longer remain the domain of a select few specialists. Clients large and small are taking their businesses to places they had never before imagined.

The Web's worldwide reach uniquely situates it to serve as a reference for the law of international trade. Sites from throughout the world provide substantive law and practical guidance.

The Best Sites

Michigan State University publishes this extensive list of international business resources. The site includes links to international news and periodicals, government information from throughout the world, regional and country information, trade show listings, and even travel and culture resources. All links are annotated.

A branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the ITA's job is to encourage U.S. exports. Its site includes a substantial library of international trade information, organized by country, region and industry, as well as "assistance centers" focused on importing and exporting, trade information, and trade compliance. Of particular note are its country commercial guides -- detailed guides to doing business in specific countries worldwide.

The NLCIFT is a non-profit organization devoted to facilitating the movement of goods, services and investment capital in the Western Hemisphere. The good news about its site is that it contains just about every resource you might want related to trade within the Americas. The bad news is that access to much of it requires an annual subscription of $450. For that, you get features such as Mexico's Diario Oficial (Mexico's equivalent to the Federal Register); the Inter-Am Database of the Americas, featuring legal and regulatory materials from throughout Latin America; the Trade and Investment Law Bulletin; and the biweekly Inter-American Trade Report.

This subscription service, operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce, provides a database of economic, business and international trade information produced by various arms of the U.S. government. Of particular interest is the National Trade Data Bank, which includes country commercial guides, market research reports, best market reports, and U.S. import and export statistics. Also useful is the International Trade Library of more than 40,000 documents. An annual subscription is $150. Non-subscribers may purchase individual articles.

Sponsored by Pace University School of Law, this is the U.S. home page of the CISG, the uniform international sales law that governs nearly two-thirds of all world trade. It is a comprehensive site, complete with the annotated text of the CISG, cases on the CISG, scholarly materials, and related documents and resources.

UNCITRAL is the U.N. branch devoted to harmonizing the law of international trade. Its site provides a complete collection of conventions, model laws, ratifications and amendments, case law, colloquium proceedings, and other documents.

The WTO is the principal international body for setting the rules of trade between nations. WTO agreements form the legal ground-rules for international commerce and for trade policy. Its site provides exhaustive information on specific trade topics such as goods, services, intellectual property, the environment, dispute settlement, and government procurement. It also includes an enormous library of trade documents and legal texts.

Other Useful Sites

The general thrust of this site is corporate finance in the U.S., but it includes exhaustive links to foreign stock exchanges and foreign financial information. It also offers a good collection of links to international trade news, information and law firms.

Tufts University's Fletcher School is host to The Multilaterals Project, an ongoing effort to publish multilateral conventions and other international instruments. The Trade and Commercial Relations section provides a wide array of full-text documents, including the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the treaty establishing the European Community, the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property, the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary & Artistic Works, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the UNCITRAL Draft Model Law On Electronic Commerce, and many others.

A service of Washburn University School of Law, this site offers a thorough collection of links to primary foreign and international legal resources, research aids, and related sites. The links are organized alphabetically by subject, author and country, and can be searched by key words.

The Trade Unit of the Organization of American States hosts this large collection of documents. It is organized into sections for multilateral agreements, bilateral agreements, regional-scope agreements, temporary, non-reciprocal agreements, and general association and cooperation agreements.

Members of the Lex Mundi law-firm network contributed these comprehensive guides to doing business in more than 33 countries, the European Union, and various U.S. states.

The best reason to visit this site is its extensive collection of working papers on international trade. Recent additions include working papers on the WTO, the GATT, African regional trade agreements, and regional Integration.

As with all the LJX practice-area pages, this includes current news and analysis, substantive articles, and links to related sites both within LJX and elsewhere on the Web.

Maintained by the U.S. Department of State's assistant legal adviser for private international law, this is a database of documents from UNCITRAL, the Hague Conference on Private International Law, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, and the Organization of American States. It includes a wide assortment of documents related to international trade and international business transactions. Documents can be read online or downloaded.

This is the agency responsible for administration and enforcement of U.S. laws relating to importing and exporting. Its Web site provides an array of useful pamphlets covering commercial imports and exports and related information.

A thorough collection of links to treaties and international law resources.

The USITC is an independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that provides trade expertise to both the legislative and executive branches, determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries, and directs actions against certain unfair trade practices, including patent, trademark and copyright infringement. The site provides the current USITC docket and calendar, including complaints and petitions that have been filed. It also provides a variety of economic reports on U.S. industries and the global trends that affect them.

This executive-branch office is responsible for developing and coordinating U.S. international trade, commodity and direct investment policy, and for negotiating with other countries on these matters. It includes a number of full-text treaties and agreements, reports speeches on trade policy, press releases, and related information.

Willamette University hosts this international law page, a broad collection of links to laws, treaties, organizations, and other resources.

This site is an outgrowth of the 1994 Summit of the Americas and its plan to integrate the economies of the Western Hemisphere into a single free trade arrangement. It includes the official documents and reports of the organization's various committees and working groups.

This site is a collection of news articles, background information and documents related to the G8. It is maintained by the University of Toronto.

From Cornell University's LII comes this collection of links to laws, treaties, government agencies, international organizations, and other sites related to international trade. Not a lengthy index, but a good starting point.

This site includes an International Trade Law Library, a collection of treaties, legal documents, practice guides and other materials. It also hosts bulletin boards for posting trade opportunities or leads.

Robert J. Ambrogi (, a lawyer in Rockport, Mass., is editor of the Internet newsletter, Past installments of this column are archived at: