INTERNATIONAL SALE OF GOODS (CISG)
The UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (1980) (‘CISG’) was the product of the first project undertaken by UNCITRAL. The aim of the CISG was, and still is, to provide a single uniform law for international trade in goods to reduce the uncertainty and costs caused by multiple, unfamiliar, and sometimes inaccessible foreign laws. As its Preamble states, it was intended to ‘contribute to the removal of legal barriers in international trade and promote the development of international trade’. It was intended to provide a neutral, internationally-recognized option. CISG rules were designed to be accessible and simple, helping to streamline international trade.
The Working Group began work in 1968. The CISG was made by the former Working Group in 3 stages, culminating in the 1978 Draft Convention on Contracts for International Sale of Goods, for which the UNCITRAL Secretariat prepared a Commentary, which remains the closest document to an Official Commentary on the CISG. In 1980 the Vienna Diplomatic Conference deliberated the 1978 Draft and Secretariat Commentary. After various amendments, the final draft of the CISG was unanimously approved by the Diplomatic Conference, and subsequently the General Assembly in 1980. A fuller account of the CISG’s legislative history appears below.
This page was last updated in October 2020.
Development of an International Jurisprudence
Following its creation, the CISG has been adopted by 94 countries. It now forms the default law relevant to international commercial sales for most industrialised countries, excluding the United Kingdom and India. The CISG forms the common language of international sales law for (inter alia) United States, Canada, Brazil, South Korea, most of Europe, China, Russia and Australia. It provides a neutral sales law designed specifically for international trade, precluding the need in most cases to resort to foreign domestic laws which may be difficult to access, and is often referred to in international arbitration as representative of usages in international sales law. Additionally, it has served as a significant model for the reform of domestic contract laws in many countries, including Germany, France (2016), China (in 1999), Netherlands, Estonia, many African nations (OHADA), and others. The UNIDROIT Principles on International Commercial Contracts were originally modelled on the CISG.
Thousands of cases have now been decided on the basis of the CISG. Decisions have been made by courts in many countries, and have been collected and organised in international databases which are available free online. In accordance with Art. 7(1) of the CISG, the call to interpret the CISG so as to promote its uniform and international nature requires that courts and tribunals should have regard to the available international jurisprudence. Links to databases with case reports and annotations appear below (under ‘Cases’).
Additionally, legislative history and extensive scholarship guide the interpretation of the CISG in a uniform and international manner. Some useful links to bibliographies and references are listed below (under ‘Articles, Books & Bibliograhies’, and in the section on ‘Legislative History’). To help maintain the uniform nature of the CISG, a body of international experts known as the CISG Advisory Council was created to issue non-binding ‘Opinions’ on controversial issues relating to interpretation of the CISG. A link to these appears below under ‘CISG Advisory Council’.