A pluralist approach to the law of international sales
CITATION: Coetzee, J. 2017. A pluralist approach to the law of international sales. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 20:1-33, doi:10.17159/1727-3781/2017/v20i0a1355.
The original publication is available at http://journals.assaf.org.za/per
International trade can support economic development and social upliftment. However, people are often discouraged from contracting internationally due to differences in legal systems which act as a non-tariff barrier to trade. This article focuses on the private law framework regulating international contracts of sale. During the twentieth century, the problem of diverse laws was primarily addressed by global uniform law such as the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG). However, uniform law is rarely complete and has to be supplemented by national law, trade usage or party agreement. Because of gaps that exist in the CISG the Swiss government made a proposal for a new global contract law. But is this a feasible solution to the fragmentary state of international trade law? In Europe, signs of reluctance are setting in towards further harmonisation efforts. The Proposal for a Common European Sales Law (CESL) was recently withdrawn, and now Britain has voted to leave the European Union; rumour having it that more countries might follow. The current private law framework for international sales contracts consists of a hybrid system where international, national, state and non-state law function side by side. This article submits that universalism is not per se the most efficient approach to the regulation of international sales law and that economic forces require a more varied approach for business-to-business transactions. The biggest challenge, however, would be to manage global legal pluralism. It is concluded that contractual parties, the courts and arbitral tribunals can effectively manage pluralism on a case-by-case basis.