Comments of the Legality of the Arab Oil Boycott

7 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2010

See all articles by Richard Bilder

Richard Bilder

University of Wisconsin Law School

Date Written: 1996


This paper, delivered at a 1976 conference on Transnational Economic Boycotts and Coercion at the University of Texas, discusses issues of the legality and propriety of measures of international economic coercion in the context of the 1973 Arab Oil Boycott.

The paper suggests that: (1) there is not presently any rule of international law prohibiting economic pressures of the type involved in the 1973 oil boycott; (2) in our present international political climate, it is unlikely that we can achieve international agreement on an effective rule barring the use of economic pressures in international relations; and (3) we may in fact not want a rule prohibiting the use of economic pressures in international relations, since such a constraint may distort political reality and impede rather than facilitate the effective adjustment of international disputes.

The author proposes, however, that we may be able to place some limits on the international exercise of such economic pressures. In particular, we can try to achieve international consensus that: (1) the most appropriate use of any such economic coercion should be by global or broad-based regional international organizations rather than by individual nations or specialized blocs of nations; (2) it should be impermissible to employ economic coercion to achieve internationally improper objectives, such as to destroy a state or commit genocide; (3) economic coercion carried to the extent of causing mass starvation or death should be impermissible; and (4) economic coercion directed against essentially innocent or neutral third parties should be impermissible.

In conclusion, the author suggests why the Arab oil boycott caused many Americans such uneasiness and emphasizes the need for the U.S. government to develop an effective policy in response to such secondary boycotts.

Keywords: Arab Oil Boycott, International Economic Coercion, Transnational Economic Boycotts, International Secondary Boycott, Economic Warfare

JEL Classification: K2, K33, K42

Suggested Citation

Bilder, Richard, Comments of the Legality of the Arab Oil Boycott (1996). Texas International Law Journal, Vol. 12, p. 41, 1976, Univ. of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

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