Trade Policy and International Legal Development
Chapter 4: Unilateral Trade Regulation, the Law of State Responsibility and the Law of Treaties
4. Unilateral trade regulation, the law of state responsibility and the law of treaties The lack of a world executive with the capability to enforce international law has been the cause of much of the debate about the character of international law itself. Whether international law is or is not ‘law properly so-called’, for instance, was often argued on the basis of the enforceability of the laws in the absence of a superior coercive power.1 Many books have been filled in trying to justify whether, and if so why, international law ‘works’ despite this lack of a sovereign over the sovereigns, but a clear consensus has not been found on either issue, and it is not my purpose to try to establish one.2 Instead the following will examine more closely the general debate about enforcement applying to the issues surrounding breach of treaty and violation of other types of international obligations with the goal of establishing when trade restrictions could be applied as a reaction to a breach – that is, when trade regulation can be used as a legal sanction. The topics of breach of a treaty and remedies for treaty breaches are classic ones for international law. Like the law of contract in private law, breach of treaty can be determined only through an analysis of the provisions of the particular treaty and an evaluation of the particulars and context of the action or inaction about which the complaint is based. Once found, a breach entails the responsibility of...
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