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The Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods

15 January, 2016 - 09:32

A Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)was approved in 1980 at a diplomatic conference in Vienna. (A convention is a preliminary agreement that serves as the basis for a formal treaty.) The CISG has been adopted by more than forty countries, including the United States.

The CISG is significant for three reasons. First, it is a uniform law governing the sale of goods—in effect, an international Uniform Commercial Code. The major goal of the drafters was to produce a uniform law acceptable to countries with different legal, social, and economic systems. Second, although provisions in the CISG are generally consistent with the UCC, there are significant differences. For instance, under the CISG, consideration (discussed in Consideration ) is not required to form a contract, and there is no Statute of Frauds (a requirement that certain contracts be evidenced by a writing). Third, the CISG represents the first attempt by the US Senate to reform the private law of business through its treaty powers, for the CISG preempts the UCC. The CISG is not mandatory: parties to an international contract for the sale of goods may choose to have their agreement governed by different law, perhaps the UCC, or perhaps, say, Japanese contract law. The CISG does not apply to contracts for the sale of (1) ships or aircraft, (2) electricity, or (3) goods bought for personal, family, or household use, nor does it apply (4) where the party furnishing the goods does so only incidentally to the labor or services part of the contract.


Judges have made contract law over several centuries by deciding cases that create, extend, or change the developing rules affecting contract formation, performance, and enforcement. The rules from the cases have been abstracted and organized in the Restatements of Contracts. To facilitate interstate commerce, contract law for many commercial transactions—especially the sale of goods—not traditionally within the purview of judges has been developed by legal scholars and presented for the states to adopt as the Uniform Commercial Code. There is an analogous Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, to which the United States is a party.


  1. How do judges make contract law?
  2. What is the Restatement of the Law of Contracts, and why was it necessary?
  3. Why was the Uniform Commercial Code developed, and by whom?
  4. Who adopts the UCC as governing law?
  5. What is the Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods?