Press Releases

    1 July 2005

    Background Release

    UN Commission on International Trade Law to Hold Thirty-Eighth Session in Vienna, 4-15 July 2005

    Session to Adopt New Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts

    VIENNA, 1 July (UN Information Service) -- The adoption of uniform rules to remove obstacles to the use of electronic communications in international contracts, including obstacles that might result from the operation of existing international trade law instruments, will be one of the key topics of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), as it meets in Vienna for its 38th session from 4-15 July 2005.  The Commission is expected to finalize and adopt a draft convention on the use of electronic communications in international contracts.

    The Commission, at its session in 2001, entrusted its Working Group IV (Electronic Commerce) with the task of preparing an international instrument dealing with issues of electronic contracting. The draft convention, comprising 14 articles, is aimed at enhancing legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in relation to international contracts. Its provisions, inter alia, 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 Commission will also consider progress reports from its other working groups, including:  progress made towards revision of the 1994 Model Law on Procurement of Goods, Construction and Services; the preparation of uniform provisions relating to interim measures of protection and the requirement that an arbitration agreement be in writing; the continued work on preparing a new international transport convention with multi-modal application, encompassing innovations such as electronic transport documents; and the development of a draft legislative guide on secured transactions.

    The coordination of UNCITRAL's work with that of other international organizations, in particular in fields relating to insolvency law, electronic commerce and commercial fraud, as well as potential future work in areas including arbitration, electronic commerce and insolvency law will also be discussed.

    Moreover, the Commission will consider a preliminary analysis of replies to a survey being undertaken by the Secretariat aimed at monitoring the legislative implementation of the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (the New York Convention).


    The Commission is composed of sixty 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 terms of six years, the terms of half members expiring every three years.

    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 (Islamic Republic of), 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 of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uruguay, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.

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    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. 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.