Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the CISG:
CISG as a Tool for Global Trade
– Theory and Practice
United Nations Commission on International Trade Law
Department of Justice of Hong Kong SAR
Asian Academy of International Law
Over the past four decades, the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) has been playing an increasingly important role in facilitating international trade by removing legal barriers among State and supporting sustainable development of international commerce. With currently 94 signatory States coming from different legal traditions and levels of economic development, CISG is widely considered as one of the most successful instruments of international trade law.
In light of this, this virtual conference was jointly organised to celebrate the 40th anniversary of this piece of significant international legal instrument. An array of distinguished speakers gathered at this conference to share their expertise and experience, attracting as many as over 400 registrants from different continents around the world.
The conference started off with welcoming speeches from Ms Teresa Cheng GBS SC JP, Secretary for Justice of the Hong Kong SAR; and Ms Anna Joubin-Bret, The Secretary of UNCITRAL. Their speeches resonated with each other in celebrating the advantages of adopting CISG and commending CISG as an inspirational example for future endeavours. As the first speaker, Ms Cheng SC underscored how CISG could serve as a great example for developing the Online Dispute Resolution (ODR) platform in providing a uniformed, neutral set of rules for diverse cultures and businesses. Then, Ms Joubin-Bret highlighted the use of CISG as a model for regional and domestic law that offered predictability and flexibility in facilitating the modernisation of contract law and different economic and legal advantages.
The first session, ‘CISG’s Contribution to the Development of International Sales Law – Past, Present and Future’, was moderated by Professor Michael Bridge QC (Hon), who reiterated the enormous success story of CISG. The first panellist, Professor Ulrich G. Schroeter, provided a thorough and detailed elaboration on the role of CISG in simplifying the commercial process for the international sales of goods, especially in terms of contract formation. He pointed out the usefulness of CISG in situations where the two parties were in lack of agreement as to which domestic law should apply, where the local laws were outdated or inapplicable to international trade, or where disputes emerged. Next, Professor Ingeborg Schwenzer, joining the conference online, shared her insights on the challenges for international commerce in the 2020s. In view of the rapid development of digitalisation of international commerce, she argued that preparation should be made in advance to tackle potential problems that may arise and provided up-to-date definitions of existing legal terms when applied to the new digital world, such as smart goods and smart contracts.
Session 2 focused on ‘Scope of Application of the CISG, Contract Formation and Drafting Issues’ with Ms Sherlin Tung as the moderator, leading an interactive and informative discussion with the speakers, Mr Eric Ng and Dr Rajesh Sharma. Mr Ng dealt with the application of CISG in light of the Belt and Road Initiative, examining the trend of related countries under that initiative joining CISG in recent years. According to him, CISG served as a baseline reference for States with very different cultural and legal backgrounds and allowed smaller States to opt out instead of being on the backfoot every time. After that, Dr Sharma explored how CISG could be used as a tool for contract negotiations by businesses, especially for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that did not have as many legal resources as multi-national corporations. Reflecting on his experiences, Dr Sharma pointed out that SMEs were actually ready to accept objective principles which were widely-used, widely-adopted, well-tested and recognised such as CISG.
The final session, led by Dr James Ding, deliberated on ‘Contract Management and Dispute Resolution’. As the first speaker, Mr Mark Walter, presented his views regarding the access to commercial justice in international commerce, opining that better understanding and access of commercial justice would incentivise better understanding and use of contracts, which may consequently enable SMEs to be involved in regional and international trade more easily, enhance economic growth, and help attract more foreign investment. Then, Professor Camilla Baasch Andersen discussed CISG’s role in the negotiation of contracts of international trade by means of very interesting illustrations, offering a new way to explain difficult concepts to the users of CISG. Last but not least, Professor Hiroo Sono deliberated on the optimisation of CISG in addressing certain contract types, proposing making the provisions of CISG the default rules for international sale of goods. He also brought forth the importance of educating lawyers to advise their clients how to optimise the use of CISG.
To conclude the conference, Dr Anthony Neoh QC SC reaffirmed the comprehensive and complementary presentations made by speakers coming from different sectors, giving a lucid and clear account of CISG as a practical tool for global trade. He also emphasised the importance of reaching a consensus on protocols as well as adhering to international standards such as CISG, as the absence of such would definitely hamper business’s sustainable efforts.
• The conference was very informative and useful.
• The content of every panel was what I expected and I enjoyed the presentations prepared by speakers.
• The presenters spoke on the issues that I felt needed to be addressed and broke them down succinctly.
• I learned a lot about the CISG.
• The contents of this conference were well organised. I have learned a lot from it.
Professor Ingeborg Schwenzer
Professor Ulrich G.Schroeter
Professor Nguyen Minh Hang
Mr Mark Walter
Professor Camilla Baasch Andersen
Professor Hiroo Sono