Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) – Definition

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Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) Definition

Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) also referred to as Vienna Convention is a treaty that was formed by the United Nation in order to create a uniform international convention or model law. This treaty is sign onto by 89 countries that occupy a major proportion of the international trade. This makes the treaty to be one of the most relevant and successful international uniform laws.

A Little More on What is the Contracts for the International Sale of Goods

The Contracts for the International Sale of Goods was developed and signed in Vienna in 1980   by The United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). The law was brought into action before the multilateral treaty on 1st Jan 1988 following its ratification by 11 states.  The CISG is sometimes referred to as the Vienna convention since it was signed and put into action in Vienna.

The treaty allows the international traders especially the exporters to use the uniform law regarding their trade since CISG provide substantive and uniform rules in which the arbitrators, contracting parties and courts may rely on when solving issues related to international trade. The CISG is considered to supplant and included in the applicable domestic rules and regulations regarding the transaction of goods between the international trade parties unless it is excluded by express agreement on the contract.

Various countries have accepted the CISG from different geographical regions, and this has made it be one of the successes of UNCITRAL. The law is used by the states from different regions in their social, economic and legal system and incorporated in every stage of economic development. The member countries that have ratified the treaty are referred to as the Contracting States. The CISG has been confirmed to have the greatest impact among the uniform convention laws regarding the global trans-border business. CISG is described as one of the greatest achievements of international trade legislation that has been able to unify international sales law. The law is also flexible to allow the member states to take exemptions to some stated articles. The flexibility in the law is considered to be an instrumental factor that can be used to lure the countries that have inappropriate legal traditions to be a member of the convention.  While some countries who are members of the CISG have made their declarations regarding this law, 68 out of 89 member states have acceded to the convention without making their declarations.

This convention forms the basis for the annual Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot that always take place in Vienna.  This comprises of teams of lawyers from law schools around the world.


The CISG give the contracting members an opportunity to lodge reservations also known as a declaration in the CISG preferred language.  This has been done by almost one-fourth of the CISG contracting states.

Some of the states have reviewed and withdrawn their declarations.  Nordic countries especially, members of the Nordic Council excluding Iceland had originally unsubscribed from the application of Part II under article 92 CISG. However, over the recent period, they have withdrawn from the reservation of Article 92 CISG and became a member to Part II CISG, apart from trade among themselves, where CISG is not applied as a whole due to a declaration lodged under article 94. Similarly, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, and China withdrew its documented declaration. The Czech Republic also withdrew its declaration that was preventing the use of article 1(1)(b

Instead of restricting the application of CISG within their law system, some countries have expanded the application by removing the some of the conditions for the CISG application. For example, the law of Israeli provides that the CISG will apply equally to members whose business location is in the non-member state.

Language, structure, and content

The CISG is designed and written in a simple language that refers to events and things that has content with common words.  This was a cognitive motive to give an opportunity to the national legal system to be exceeded through the use of a common legal lingua franca and ignores the words that are associated with domestic legal tones.  Moreover, it enhances the translation into the six official languages of the UN. As part of the UN tradition, all six languages are applied equally and authentic.

Increased adoption of CISG

Some countries such as Guatemala and Rwanda have developed a domestic procedure for considering the application of CISG and implemented laws that authorize its adoption. The CISG is anticipated to enter into action for its instrument of accession that is placed with Secretary-General of the United Nations. Besides other countries such as Kazakhstan are in the process of adopting the CISG.

References for Contracts for the International Sale of Good (CISG)

Academic Research on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)

  • A propos the 1980 Vienna Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, Eörsi, G. (1983). The American Journal of Comparative Law, 31(2), 333-356. This paper discusses the provisions of the Contracts for the International Sale of Goods. the author present that, CISG was designed and the provisions were instituted that applies to the contracting states. The main aim of CISG is to allow exporters to carry out their business without interference by the laws from other jurisdictions since it offered recognized substantive rules on which contracting parties, courts, and arbitrators may rely on in making a judgment on issues related to international trade.
  • Application of the United Nations convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) to Arab Islamic countries: Is the CISG compatible with Islamic law …, Akaddaf, F. (2001). Pace Intl’l L. Rev., 13, 1. This article examines the use of the CISG by the Islamic countries. The paper seeks to determine whether the provision of CISG is compatible with the domestic laws of the Arabian countries.  The authors present that the Islamic Law and CISG are areas that has been dormant for a quite long period. He further states that CISG is one of the most revolutionary treaties in the history of international trade that incorporate Islamic, and civil law in its operation.
  • Defining the undefinable: Good faith and the United Nations Convention on the contracts for the international sale of goods, Powers, P. J. (1998). JL & Com., 18, 333. This article discusses the impacts of the concept of good faith in the CISG.  The author present that the concept of good faith has significant implications on CISG. In this regard, he suggests that the broader approach to this concept must be taken into consideration with regard to CISG.
  • Electronic commerce and the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) 1980, Eiselen, S. (1999). Edi L. Rev., 6, 21. This paper examines the impacts of electronic commerce on the CISG. The paper further analyses the requirements of the United Nations CISG against the decline in the use of methods of communications such as EDI. According to the author, the introduction of contemporary techniques of communication create problems to the traditional provisions of contract law. It is revealed that the CISG make part of contract law that is properly situated to deal with the contemporary techniques of communication.
  • … Provisions Under the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: A Preliminary Step Towards an International Jurisprudence of CISG or a Missed …, Darkey, J. M. (1995).  This paper examines various steps that have been made towards CISG interpretation. The authors present that the CISG offers a uniform law for the CISG contracting states. The author presents that the provisions by the CISG are in concurrent by the US domestic laws regarding the international trade. In this regard, the US court can use the provision of the convention to interpret issues regarding international commercial contracts.
  • The international interpretation of the UN convention on contracts for the international sale of goods: an approach based on general principles, Koneru, P. (1997). Minn. J. Global Trade, 6, 105. This paper examines the global interpretation of the CISG approaches. The article presents that aims of CISG are to promote international trade by eliminating legal barricades in international trade. However, the interpretation of this law is based on the links between the provision of the CISG and the domestic laws.
  • The UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)-A Leap Forward towards Unified International Sales Law, Zeller, B. (2000). Pace Int’l L. Rev., 12, 79. The nature of global trade has significantly changed over the last few years. In this regard, this paper tends to examine the changes that have occurred in the international trade and their relation to the CISG. The author presents that there has been increased creation of new nations the act that has considerable challenges facing international trade.  The author also points out that progressively retailers, traditionally operating in the domestic market, have adopted globalization has considerable impacts in the application of the CISG regulation, especially in the domestic tickets.
  • What sources of law for contracts for the international sale of goods? Why one has to look beyond the CISG, Ferrari, F. (2005). International Review of Law and economics, 25(3), 314-341. This paper examines the sources of law for contracts for the international sales of goods. The author presents that some of the laws used in the international sale of goods are derived from the economic laws of member countries and the international convention treaties.  The authors further state that when driving the laws governing the international sale of goods, it is important to go beyond CISG because this will help to get a wide range of regulations that fit the need of various countries.
  • UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: Examining the Gap-Filling Role of CISG in Two French Decisions, Callaghan, J. J. (1994). This paper examines the role of CISG in filling the gap in two decisions made by the French union. According to the author, the international trade thrives when impediments and restrictions to its flow are minimized. In this regard, CISG play an important role in providing a favorable environment that allows the success of the international business. In this regard, it helps in fulfilling the trade gap that exists in the international trade especially in the gaps created the French regulations.
  • The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods: divergent interpretations, Ryan, L. M. (1995). Tul. J. Int’l & Comp. L., 4, 99. This paper investigates and discusses the divergent interpretations of the CISG among different countries. According to the author, many countries from different jurisdictions present often make a different interpretation of the CISG. The countries tend to make their inferences based on their domestic laws and thus creates divergence in the interpretation of the CISG.

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