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What is International Business Law?

By R. Kimball
Updated May 16, 2024
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International business law is the practice of law in the global business community. It includes a focus on economics and the law, international commercial transactions, licensing, tariffs and taxes, and many other topics. International business law varies by jurisdiction. It builds on top of basic business law concepts by expanding them to an international arena.

A study of economics and the law gives an attorney an analytical framework for considering legal and economic aspects of a particular policy as it relates to international commercial law. International business law is almost always related to trade or commerce in one way or another. Considering the economic impact of a specific transaction or a policy’s effect on transactions is an important part of this practice area.

Public international law issues affect commerce and trade in a variety of ways. The laws of several different jurisdictions come into play in each transaction. An analysis of the specific laws for each jurisdiction must be completed prior to determining which jurisdiction is best for a given transaction.

Trade agreements have a significant impact on international business law. Two or more countries may join together for a specific trade agreement in order to define certain aspects of commerce or trade. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is an example of a trade agreement. It is a trilateral agreement between the United States, Mexico, and Canada intended to reduce trade and investment barriers between the three countries. These types of agreements exist among many different countries and must be considered as one enters into a new set of commercial transactions.

Licensing of different property rights is a major issue in the field of international business law. A company in one country may develop a specific intellectual property. This company may then have the item produced in a different country, or it may license other companies the right to produce this item in many different countries. As each of these transactions is negotiated, the rights licensed or maintained by each of the different companies are the primary focus of the commercial transaction. The laws in each of the jurisdictions all play into how the transaction is negotiated.

Tariffs, taxes, and other mechanisms for regulating trade vary by jurisdiction. There are usually basic provisions for a country that can be modified by trade agreements among the different countries. These issues must be considered as one negotiates each transaction.

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