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The international treaty selected for this study is the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties that was adopted in 1969. The Convention was ratified by 114 states. Its main aim is to guide the formation and processing of international treaties between the States that ratified it.
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties
The main terms that are presented in the VCLT include treaty, ratification, reservation, and others. The VCLT defines a treaty as an international agreement between States that is presented in a written formed and governed by international law (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969). Ratification is the international act “whereby a State establishes on the international plane its consent to be bound by a treaty” (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, p. 333). Reservation is the statement made by a State “when signing, ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to a treaty” which purpose is to either exclude or modify the legal effect of particular “provisions of the treaty in their application to that State” (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, p. 333).
The United States signed the treaty in 1970, but the U.S. Senate has given neither its advice nor its consent to the treaty (Is the United States a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties? n.d.). However, Article 18 is similar to the customary international law that governs the nations that are not parties to the VCLT. Thus, the principles of international law that guide the U.S. and the States that ratified the Convention can be considered party similar.
Important International Law Principles
The first international law principle that I find important is stated in Article 29 of the VCLT: territorial scope of treaties. This article implies that the treaty will apply to all territories of each party that signed the treaty, including overseas territories, air space, etc. (Malone 2008). Territorial scope, however, can be limited by the treaty but only if such limitation is compatible with the treaty’s object and purpose (Malone 2008).
The principle helps to regulate international relations, treaties, and commerce; however, the territorial scope does not always apply to e-commerce via the Internet. Therefore, it is unclear whether the rules of a treaty signed by two parties can apply to a third party that also took part in online e-commerce. So far, there is no regulation that would approach this problem in detail (Riordan 2016).
Another principle is included in Article 31 ‘General Rule of Interpretation’. It states that the treaty and its terms are to be interpreted “in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning” if the parties did not intend to establish a special meaning to the terms (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, p. 340). Thus, this principle allows the parties to assure that the terms used in the treaty will be interpreted by both parties in a similar way.
However, some terms and their meanings tend to evolve, and the previous ‘ordinary’ meaning can be inapplicable to them in the XXI century. For example, it was not clear whether the statement ‘for the purpose of commerce’ covered tourism in the Nicaraguan – Costa Rican treaty of limits (Bjorge 2014). Thus, the definition ‘the ordinary meaning’ can be obsolete in the modern treaties; it is not able to cover all meanings of the terms that have evolved into something different in the XXI century.
Such vagueness may cause difficulties in international commerce, as it will be unclear to what term exactly the parties refer. Thus, treaties represent not only the intentions of the parties, but they are also time-bound and can reflect the context of the time (Bjorge 2014). Although the evolutionary interpretation of treaties is not as frequently neglected by Courts as one could have thought, it is still necessary to stress that often such interpretation is the one that does not contradict the intentions of the parties. Modern international commerce can face such challenges that will impose a risk on it; that is why the evolutionary interpretation of treaties is a vital part of the interpretation principle.
The last principle of international law that I find important is the separability of treaty provisions. According to the VCLT, any treaty can be denounced or withdrawn by any party (Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, p. 343). The fate of commerce treaties that are governed by this law is discussed by Boschiero et al. (2013): a commerce treaty is suspended during an armed conflict, but some of its provisions (e.g. those that secure private rights) can survive.
Thus, it is unclear whether this treaty was completely suspended or if it still can become operational after the end of the conflict (Boschiero et al. 2013). This example shows that although the principle is important to the operation of treaties, it does not cover all situations that the commerce might face.
The three principles detected and discussed in this paper are also used to govern the international commerce; however, as the time changes and the contexts differ from case to case, the principles cannot always be properly applied and demand specifications of the situations and the context.
Bjorge, E 2014, The evolutionary interpretation of treaties, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Boschiero, N, Scovazzi, T, Pitea, C & Ragni, C 2013, International courts and the development of international law: essays in honour of Tullio Treves, Springer Science & Business Media, Berlin.
Is the United States a party to the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties? n.d. Web.
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Malone, L 2008, International law, Aspen Publishers Online, New York.
Riordan, T 2016, The liability of internet intermediaries, Oxford University Press, Oxford.
Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969. Web.