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    Trade Law Gets Down to Business


    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 4/2002 

    by Natalie Domeisen

    We named this issue Trade Law Gets Down to Business, because we present new legal approaches to emerging business needs, and provide them in a "business briefing" format.

    With a new global mindset, and the technology to support it, more and more business is international. There are also many more borders to cross. In 1945 there were 51 UN member States, each with its own national laws; today there are 191.

    Traditional legal approaches cannot keep pace with the avalanche of new laws and legal systems, combined with the jump in trade. Business communities and governments are developing new ways to facilitate business deals, settle disputes and create attractive business environments.

    Readers will find what ITC considers the essential legal elements for successful business: trends, treaties, contracts and players. From the thousands of treaties, dozens of international model contracts and scores of new approaches, we select the main points for businesses and governments to keep in mind.

    One trend is a change in mindset, from trial-dominated response to a culture of prevention. The image of the trial lawyer makes for good television drama. But in practice, the exponential growth of laws, legal systems and international contracts is leading to more work outside of the courtroom - even before the contract is signed.

    Model contracts for international business are a good example of this new trend. They give exporters a formula that can work across several countries and that covers the most frequently-asked questions. The need for such contracts will continue to grow as more small businesses - without resources to consult specialized lawyers - negotiate and draft their own agreements. We orient readers towards some of the most important model contracts - for direct sales, for sales through intermediaries and for joint ventures. Joint venture model contracts are the newest, and ITC has been proud to foster them. ITC recently hosted lawyers from around the world who volunteered their services for this effort, which trade promotion organizations in 125 countries cited as a top priority to help their firms.

    There are messages in this issue for governments, too. Among the thousands of international trade treaties in existence, about 200 are critical. Countries that adhere to them have a much more secure legal environment in which to conduct business - and have the trade figures to show for it. ITC has developed computerized maps which show, country by country, which treaties are ratified. These "legal maps" give governments an overview of what they need to do to create a predictable and secure legal environment for trade.

    We encourage you to read the articles by the international legal specialists featured in this issue, who report on trends to develop model contracts, harmonize regional law and benchmark adherence to trade treaties. As always, we include information resources and contact information at ITC and other leading organizations to help you explore further. There are exciting developments underway, and ITC is at the cutting edge of this process.