It shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the most active and powerful parts of international law is the part regarding investments and money. Every year, countries spend trillions of dollars investing in each other for raw materials, manufacturing, mining, lumber and much, much more. Sometimes, these contracts can seem lopsided or one country can appear to be taking advantage of another unfairly. You can also have situations where threats or collusion can occur that can influence why one country agreed to something, even if it appears that they don’t have that country’s best interests in mind. If it wasn’t for international law and international courts, cases like these would never be resolved and almost no international trading would get done. Let’s take a look at how international law influences trade around the world.
With more and more attention being paid to the environment, world wide agreements such as the Kyoto Protocols have changed the way that international business is done, even if countries like the United States haven’t signed off on it yet. However, critics sight the Kyoto treaty, and many environment treaties like it, as a major roadblock to doing business in an efficient way. Say country A wants to open up a huge mine in country B. In the past, the mine was dug and the ore or diamonds were taken out, but now, environmental treaties require that certain standards be met along the way. These standards may help things be done in a more earth-friendly way, but those extra costs that are rung up will likely cut into profits or even deter the two countries from doing business at all. If the treaties are ignored, both countries could face fines or other stiff penalties from international courts for violating the treaty. These environmental treaties are considered extremely unfair to developing countries that don’t have the advanced technology at their disposal to operate mines and do other such operations in an environmentally friendly way. The argument over environmental treaties and their impact on business and investments will continue into the future as conditions like global warming get worse and the demand for natural resources increases as well.
On a completely different front, international law can influence things like copyright and can cause a company to have to invest millions or even billions to change decades of their product to meet the new laws. The perfect example was the recent battle between the World Wildlife Fund and the World Wrestling Federation. The World Wildlife Fund filed a suit in international court saying that they had the rights to the initials WWF, and they won. The wrestling organization was then forced to abandon those initials and completely rebrand itself, a process that any company would dread. They were even forced to go back through their extensive tape library that consisted of hundreds of thousands of hours of footage and digitally remove any mention of the WWF name or logo. The cost of such a project is literally unquantifiable.