At the end of this session, learners will understand the legal and institutional framework of international trade. They will identify the challenges and specificities of the international dimension of business law. They will know the fundamental rules of international trade.
French legal system
An example of State legal system.
The legal system of the European Union
A sui generis legal system, intermediate between a developed legal system instituted by a treaty and a federal State.
European Convention on Human Rights
This Convention is an international treaty under which the member States of the Council of Europe undertake to secure fundamental civil and political rights, to everyone within their jurisdiction.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement is an international agreement.
Public international law
Private international law
International legal system(s)
For private operators, the international legal system is not an integrated coherent body of rules, applied by specific courts. Instead, there exist several international legal systems. Some are mandatory, other are facultative.
Article 55 of the French Constitution provides that treaties or international agreements duly ratified or approved shall, from the time of their publication, have a higher authority than laws, subject, for each treaty of agreement, to its application by the other party.
+ Read: International treaties binding France (official website diplomatie.gouv.fr)
World Trade Organization (WTO)
The World Trade Organization (WTO) is based in Genève, Switzerland. It presents itself as the only global international organization dealing with the rules of trade between nations.
The WTO is mainly aimed at States rather than private operators.
+ Read: About the WTO (website wto.org)
International Chamber of Commerce (ICC)
The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is based in Paris, France. The ICC is a private organization that presents itself as the institutional representative of more than 45 million companies in over 100 countries. ICC is a leading arbitral institution for international business matters.
+ Read: About ICC
The ICC defines the Incoterms (International Commercial Terms).
- Incoterms rules (ICC’s website)
- Les nouvelles règles Incoterms® 2020 et la valeur en douane (official website douane.gouv.fr)
Based in Rome, Italy, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) presents itself as an independent intergovernmental Organisation which purpose is to « study needs and methods for modernising, harmonising and co-ordinating private and in particular commercial law as between States and groups of States and to formulate uniform law instruments, principles and rules to achieve those objectives ».
+ Read: About UNIDROIT (website unidroit.org)
Lex mercatoria refers to the rules generally applied between merchants. It is composed of general principles of law and usages of international trade.
Convention of Vienna (CISG, 1980)
The United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (Vienna, 1980) (CISG) is an international agreement between 94 parties.
- CISG governs contracts for the international sales of goods between private businesses, excluding sales to consumers and sales of services, as well as sales of certain specified types of goods.
- It applies to contracts for sale of goods:
- between parties whose places of business are in different Contracting States,
- or when the rules of private international law lead to the application of the law of a Contracting State,
- or by virtue of the parties’ choice.
Hague Conference on Private International Law
The Hague Conference is a global inter-governmental organisation based in The Hague (The Netherlands).
- An intergovernmental organisation, the purpose of which is « to work for the progressive unification of the rules of private international law » (Statute, Article 1).
- 90 members (89 States and the European Union).
- First meeting in 1893.
- Became a permanent inter-governmental organisation in 1955.
- The conventions are drafted in French and in English.
- 40 conventions are in force: https://www.hcch.net/en/instruments/conventions.
- Meet in principle every four years in Plenary Session (ordinary Diplomatic Session) to negotiate and adopt Conventions and to decide upon future work.
- Special Commissions or working groups held several times a year prepare the new Conventions, review the operation of the existing Conventions and adopt recommendations with the object of improving the effectiveness of the Conventions and promoting consistent practices and interpretation.