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State Internet Management of Multilateral International Commerce Treaties

Monday 15 November 2004, by Jean-François Bourque

All the versions of this article: [English] [français]

Mr. Jean-François Bourque, Main Legal Counsel, Internation Commerce Centre (CCI), OMC-CNUCED

Multilateral Trade Treaties - Lega Carta

A technical assistance programme to optimize a country’s multilateral trade legal framework

What is the problem?

International trade treaties are a crucial element in a country’s legal framework. They help streamlining trade and harmonizing commercial practices and rules. Their number is increasing each year.

Few developing countries do know exactly where they stand globally vis-à-vis these trade treaties, what instruments they have ratified, what treaties they should ratify and which ones can or should be ignored altogether.

Since these multilateral agreements are administered by some 25 different institutions with little coordination amongst them, countries can not easily have a global picture. In addition, countries are not always aware as to the organisations in which their Governments or their national trade promotion organisations should be represented in order to negotiate international trade instruments.

Most developed countries benefit from a high rate of ratification of these treaties - between 40% and 60 %. In developing countries, however, that rate ranges from 2% to 30%. In several countries, the low rate of ratification of important agreements complicates business, and generally offers companies an uncertain or hampered legal framework. As a result, the overall national trade environment is impaired.

What do these treaties contain and what is their use?

Among the existing 50.000 international agreements that entered into force since the 1880s, some 250 multilateral trade treaties and other instruments have been identified by ITC . Several provide specific advantages to the business community at large or to foreign companies operating in a given country.

They deal with a wide range of operational aspects of trade such as:

- which rules apply to sale contracts? to contracts with agents? to leasing contracts?
- can a foreign arbitration award be enforced in a given country?
- is temporary admission of business samples allowed?
- how is bribery dealt with in the field of contracts?
- to what maximum amount is the air transporter liable? what about maritime transports?
- how is copyright protected?
- how are certain natural species protected?

Some of the above-mentioned instruments have a maximum impact on trade (such as the WTO Agreements or the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards), others have a low impact; still others are obsolete.

What does ITC offer?

ITC offers a system, Lega Carta, to improve the multilateral trade treaties environment of a given country. The range of issues covered by the system is as follows:

- Banking, payments and insolvency
- Customs and trade
- Environment
- Illicit trade
- Intellectual property
- Contracts
- Dispute resolution
- Investments
- Law of treaties
- Transport and communications

In countries characterised by a low rate of ratification, national officers (within the Ministry of Trade, the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ...) are trained to monitor and then optimize their country’s position with respect to the most important multilateral trade treaties.

Its contents are up-dated on a yearly basis. Lega Carta enables local users to:

- Access to the treaties’ full text and abstracts;
- List per category the treaties to which his/her particular country belongs;
- Visualize his/her country’s position with respect to other countries in the region;
- Analyse the country’s strengths and weaknesses.

Lega Carta is web-based and, where necessary, locally accessible through CD-Roms. Languages: English and French (in full); Spanish (partially).

Technical assistance programmes for a given country/region

1) After an initial training (two or three persons per country) on international trade treaties, international trade organizations and the Lega Carta database, the system is installed locally (or through web access). The initial training is organised by ITC in cooperation with selected International Organisations that administer the agreements. International legal experts are involved in the training, with the goal to explain in detail the advantages and pitfalls arising out of the ratification of these agreements and the practical aspects of the ratification procedures.

2) Following this, a priority list of treaties that should be ratified is nationally established, taking into account the local priorities (Lega Carta rates each treaty according to its relevance in international trade, but this requires local adaptation). In this respect, a priority-list of instruments to ratify - or incorporate into national laws - can be established at the regional level, should a group of countries facing the same weaknesses in terms of ratification be identified.

3) As a result:

A country is provided with the necessary tools to monitor its own system of international trade treaties (in this regard, it is recommended that Lega Carta be hosted within a particular Ministry);

A country is enabled to improve its national legal framework in the field of trade, taking into consideration its specific situation and the regional context. In particular, officers within the relevant Ministries are in a position to plan and carry out ratifications of the selected treaties (or the incorporation into national law of the selected model-laws).

ITC Contacts

Jean-François Bourque

Senior Legal Adviser

International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC)

54, rue de Montbrillant

1211 Geneva 10


Tel: 41 22 730 03 13

Fax: 41 22 730 05 76

E-mail: bourque@intracen.org

Massimo Vittori

Associate Legal Expert

International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO (ITC)

54, rue de Montbrillant

1211 Geneva 10


Tel: 41 22 730 03 03
Fax: 41 22 730 05 76

E-mail: vittori@intracen.org

Any message or comments?


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