15/07/2005
Press Release
L/3091


UN COMMISSION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE LAW CONCLUDES 38TH SESSION IN VIENNA


Adopts New Draft Convention on Use

Of Electronic Communications in International Contracting


(Reissued as received.)


VIENNA, 15 July (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) concluded its thirty-eighth annual session in Vienna, Austria, today, with the adoption of a new draft convention on the use of electronic communications in international contracting.  The draft convention is intended to remove obstacles to the use of electronic communications in international contracting, including obstacles that might arise under existing international trade law instruments, most of which were negotiated long before the development of new technology, such as e-mail, electronic data interchange (EDI) and the Internet.


The draft convention complements and builds upon earlier instruments prepared by UNCITRAL, including the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Commerce and the UNCITRAL Model Law on Electronic Signatures.  The new convention was prepared by UNCITRAL’s Working Group on Electronic Commerce over a number of sessions commencing in 2002 and completing its work in October 2004.


Aimed at enhancing legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in relation to international contracts, the provisions of the draft convention deal with determining a party’s location in an electronic environment; the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications; and the use of automated message systems for contract formation.  Other provisions contain criteria establishing functional equivalence between electronic communications and paper documents -- including “original” paper documents -- as well as between electronic authentication methods and hand-written signatures.  The new convention will assure companies and traders around the world that contracts negotiated electronically are as valid and enforceable as traditional paper-based transactions.


Other topics of discussion were the progress reports of the Commission’s Working Groups, and possible future topics to be deliberated by the Working Groups.


As a follow-up to the adoption of the draft convention, the Commission decided that the Working Group on Electronic Commerce could discuss legal issues concerning cross-border recognition of electronic signatures and online dispute resolution.


The Working Group on Procurement reported on its ongoing revision of the 1994 Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services, to reflect new practices, in particular those that resulted from the use of electronic communications in public procurement.  The Working Group on Transport Law reported on its development of a new international transport convention with multi-modal application, encompassing innovations such as electronic transport documents.  The Working Group on Security Interests reported on its development of a draft legislative guide on secured transactions.  The Working Group on Arbitration reported on its drafting of an article revising the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration, with respect to the provision of interim measures, including the question of whether interim measures can be ordered on an ex parte basis.  The Commission discussed possible future topics of interest to the Working Group on Arbitration, which could include legal issues relating to arbitrability, online dispute resolution and a review of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, noting that a conference would be held in Vienna on 6-7 April 2006 to mark the thirtieth anniversary of those Arbitration Rules.


A number of proposals were made for future work to be undertaken by the Commission on the topic of insolvency law, including on the treatment of corporate groups in insolvency and the use of cross-border protocols in transnational insolvency cases.  The Commission agreed that in order to obtain the views of international organizations and insolvency experts on the proposed topics, an international colloquium should be held in Vienna from 14-16 November 2005.


The Commission welcomed the efforts and initiatives of its Secretariat aimed at increasing coordination and cooperation with other international organizations active in the field of international trade law, noting specific efforts in the fields of insolvency law, electronic commerce and commercial fraud.  The Commission reiterated its commitment to fulfilling its mandate to ensure coordination with other international organizations and the forging of collaborative relationships to avoid duplication of work.  It noted that the recent expansion of the Secretariat and the creation of a new Technical Assistance and Coordination Unit would facilitate the achievement of those goals.


Membership


The Commission is composed of 60 member States elected by the United Nations General Assembly.  Membership is structured so as to be representative of the world’s geographic regions and its principal economic and legal systems.  Members of the Commission are elected for six-year terms.


Current members are:  Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Colombia, Croatia, Czech Republic, Ecuador, Fiji, France, Gabon, Germany, Guatemala, India, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Lithuania, Madagascar, Mexico, Mongolia, Morocco, Nigeria, Pakistan, Paraguay, Poland, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Serbia and Montenegro, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.


The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) is the core legal body of the United Nations system in the field of international trade law.  Its mandate is to remove legal obstacles to international trade by progressively modernizing and harmonizing trade law.  It prepares legal texts in a number of key areas such as international commercial dispute settlement, electronic commerce, insolvency, international payments, sale of goods, transport law, procurement and infrastructure development.  The UNCITRAL also provides technical assistance to law reform activities, including assisting Member States to review and assess their law reform needs and to draft the legislation required to implement UNCITRAL texts.  The UNCITRAL Secretariat is located in Vienna, Austria.  The UNCITRAL maintains a website at www.uncitral.org.


For information, contact:  Jenny Clift, Senior Legal Officer, UNCITRAL Secretariat, e-mail:  jenny.clift@uncitral.org.


United Nations Information Service Vienna (UNIS), P.O. Box 500, A-1400 Vienna, Austria, tel.:  (+43-1) 26060 4666, fax:  (+43-1) 26060 5899, e-mail:  UNIS@unvienna.org.


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