Sixth Committee (Legal) — 63rd session

Report of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the work of its forty-first session (agenda item 74)

Summary of work

Background (source: A/63/100)

The General Assembly established the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) at its twenty-first session, in 1966, to promote the progressive harmonization and unification of the law of international trade, and requested the Commission to submit an annual report to the Assembly (resolution 2205 (XXI)). The Commission began its work in 1968. It originally consisted of 29 Member States representing the various geographic regions and the principal legal systems of the world. At its twenty-eighth and fifty-seventh sessions, respectively, the General Assembly increased the membership of the Commission from 29 to 36 States (resolution 3108 (XXVIII)) and from 36 to 60 States (resolution 57/20).

At its sixty-second session, the General Assembly welcomed the decision by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law to hold a comprehensive review of its working methods; appealed to Governments, the relevant bodies of the United Nations system, organizations, institutions and individuals to make voluntary contributions to the UNCITRAL Trust Fund for Symposia; recalled its resolutions in which it encouraged the Commission to further explore different approaches to the use of partnerships with non-State actors in the implementation of its mandate, particularly in the area of technical assistance; and requested the Secretary-General to explore options to facilitate the timely publication of the Yearbook of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law and to continue providing summary records of the meetings of the Commission relating to the formulation of normative texts (resolution 62/64).

At the same session, the General Assembly welcomed the initiatives to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, which took place in New York on 10 June 1958 (resolution 62/65).

Consideration at the sixty-third session

The Sixth Committee considered the item at its 9th, 10th, 25th and 26th meetings, on 20 October and on 5 and 14 November 2007. At the 9th meeting, on 20 October, the Chairperson of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNICTRAL) at its forty-first session introduced the reports of the Commission on the work of its resumed fortieth and forty-first sessions.

Statements were made by the representatives of Norway (on behalf of the Nordic countries), Austria, Australia, Belarus, Guatemala, Japan, India, China, the Russian Federation, Singapore, Qatar, Thailand, Mexico, Cameroon, Senegal, France, Spain, the Republic of Korea, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Venezuela, New Zealand, Slovenia. Algeria, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa, Pakistan, Ghana, the Netherlands and Indonesia.

Delegations generally commended the work and progress accomplished by UNCITRAL during its resumed fortieth and its forty-first sessions and reiterated their strong support for the work of UNCITRAL in the harmonization and modernization of international trade law.

General support was expressed for the work done by Working Group I (Procurement) in revising the UNCITRAL Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services and by Working Group II (Arbitration and Conciliation) in revising the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. While the decision by the Working Group to postpone inclusion of specific provisions concerning investor-State dispute settlement in the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules was welcomed, it was stressed that such inclusion would need to be considered in the near future. Several delegations also commended the progress made by Working Group V (Insolvency) with regard to the treatment of enterprise groups in insolvency and the recent efforts by Working Group VI (Security Interests) in addressing security interests in intellectual property, with a goal of formulating an annex to the Legislative Guide on this matter. 

As regards the future work in electronic commerce, some delegations expressed support for the decision by UNCITRAL to work in consultation with the World Custom Organization on legal issues involved in implementing a cross-border single windows facility.

Delegations generally welcomed the comprehensive review of UNCITRAL’s working methods and the note prepared by the Secretariat for such purposes describing the current practices. While several delegations recalled their support for the established practice of consensus, few speakers stressed the need to clarify that concept. With regard to the participation of NGOs as observers in UNCITRAL meetings, it was observed that only Member States should participate in the decision-making process even though the expertise and technical support that NGOs are able to provide are of value and greatly welcomed.

Several delegations emphasized the participation of developing States in the works of UNCITRAL and also recalled the importance of technical assistance provided by the Secretariat to those developing States.

As to the UNCITRAL Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions, it was widely felt that the Legislative Guide would assist States, especially developing countries, in modernizing their secured transaction regimes by providing a legal framework that promotes greater access to low-cost credit.

A number of delegations expressed their support for the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea stressing that existing rules in the field of transport law was not able to fully reflect the current practices of the industry. It was observed that the Convention would provide a modern and comprehensive framework that would fill those gaps and enhance more predictability and uniformity, improving conditions for international trade and leading to an overall reduction in transaction costs.

Action taken by the Sixth Committee

At the 25th meeting, on 5 November 2008, the representative of Austria, on behalf of Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Canada, Chile, China, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Norway, Paraguay, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, the Russian Federation, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, the Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Uruguay and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), subsequently joined by Egypt, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina,  Iran (Islam Republic of), Fiji, Latvia, Malta, Moldova, Montenegro and the Republic of Korea, introduced a draft resolution entitled “Reports of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law on the work of its resumed fortieth and forty-first sessions” (A/C.6/63/L.4). At the 26th meeting, on 14 November, the Committee adopted draft resolution A/C.6/63/L.4 without a vote.

At the 25th meeting, on 5 November, the representative of Austria, on behalf of the Bureau, introduced two other draft resolutions entitled “Legislative Guide on Secured Transactions of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.” (A/C.6/63/L.5) and “United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea.” (A/C.6/63/L.6) At the 26th meeting, on 14 November, the Committee adopted the two draft resolutions (A/C.6/63/L.5 and A/C.6/63/L.6) without a vote. Upon taking action on draft resolution A/C.6/63/L.6, the General Assembly would be formally adopting the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea contained in the Annex to the draft resolution and authorizing a signing ceremony to be held on 23 September 2009 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

This agenda item was subsequently considered at the sixty-fourth session (2009)

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