The Machinations of International Trade.

The UK has not ratified the Vienna Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (the Convention)2 which places the UK in an anomalous position vis-à-vis its primary trading partners, often leading to pressure to accept the law of a contracting party that is a signatory to the Convention3. This has led to a marked difference between the approach in international trade law to contract termination and buyer remedies under the Convention, in contrast to the position under CIF and FOB contracts, where the role of documents is paramount to obligations of the trading parties4.

Firstly, with regard to the certificate of origin, under CIF contracts, the part of the seller’s primary obligation is to ensure goods, deliver them to the shipping company and arrange for freight of goods5. Arguably most important is the bill of lading, which is essentially a transport document and covers movement by sea and constitutes documents of title and evidence as to who has the title, which is vital to obligations under CIF and FOB contracts6. If a bill of lading is consigned to a named party, they are known as “straight consigned”7.

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Moreover, bills of lading can be categorized according to the mode of transport specified under the contract8. For example, marine bills of lading cover shipment by sea and can be issued by the shipping company, captain or master of the vessel or party acting as agents for the carrier9. Alternatively, the “received for shipment” bill of lading pieces of evidence receipt of goods by the issuer, however, does not evidence that goods are en route10. Finally, “shipped on board” bills of lading constitute evidence.

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