HARMONISATION AND THE UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON CONTRACTS FOR THE INTERNATIONAL SALE OF GOODS
After many years of negotiation, the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (“CISG”) came into force in 1988. Today, 62 states have adopted the CISG. Together these countries account for over two-thirds of all world trade.2 On this basis alone, the CISG is an outstanding success in the legal harmonisation of the law governing the international sale of goods. However, the CISG has its critics and much comment has been made on the failure of the CISG to achieve its goal of promoting international trade through a body of uniform rules. The primary motivation driving the push for a harmonised law on the international sale of goods is economic: a harmonised law makes it easier and more efficient for the business person to sell and buy goods across state borders. However, the engine driving the push for harmonisation is political and cultural; and the task of creating the harmonised law belongs to the diplomat.3 A study of the CISG demonstrates that the political and cultural demands on the diplomat also act as shackles that restrain the achievement of a harmonised law. This paper will consider the CISG and discuss the constraints on treaty making as a mechanism for legal harmonisation. Part one discusses the constraints faced when creating a uniform text. Part two discusses the problems with the text of the CISG that result from the negotiation process. Finally, part three discusses the constraints faced in maintaining the uniformity of the CISG.
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