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Advanced Introduction to International Sales Law

Clayton P. Gillette

Providing a concise overview of the basic doctrines underlying the UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG), Clayton Gillette explores their ambiguities and thus considers the extent to which uniform international commercial law is possible, as well as appraising the extent to which the doctrines in the UN Convention reflect those that commercial parties would prefer. With its compelling combination of doctrine and theory, this book makes an ideal companion for students and legal scholars alike.
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4 Interpretation

Clayton P. Gillette


Interpretation issues concerning the CISG fall into two categories: (1) What principles are to be used to interpret the CISG itself; and (2) what principles are to be used to interpret contracts governed by the CISG? The CISG explicitly addresses both categories, though much about the proper principles to apply in each case remains uncertain.

We have already encountered some of the difficulties involved in interpreting the CISG. Article 7 sets forth the general requirements. Article 7(1) mandates regard for the CISG’s “international character and . . . the need to promote uniformity in its application.” In Chapter 1 we reviewed some of the obstacles to achieving these objectives: The multiple “authoritative” versions; the absence of a single official body charged with reconciling conflicting interpretations; the inevitable homeward trend; and the limited accessibility of CISG decisions from other jurisdictions. Article 7 makes clear that reliance on decisions from other jurisdictions and autonomous determinations of issues governed by the CISG are desirable to ensure uniform interpretation. As courts have become increasingly comfortable with the CISG, they have become more respectful of these admonitions.1 Nevertheless, it may be asking too much of domestic courts to expect that they will ignore or even subordinate their understanding of domestic legal principles to the goal of international uniformity. Indeed, the extent to which interpreters of the CISG strive to meet that goal may itself depend on their perspectives on the desirability of uniform international commercial law. As Chapter 1 suggested, there is reason to question...

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