The Hague Principles on Choice of Law for International Contracts: Some Preliminary Comments
Symeon C. Symeonides
Willamette University - College of Law
April 25, 2013
American Journal of Comparative Law, Vol. 61, No. 3, 2013
Revue critique de droit international privé, Vol. 13, 2013
This Article discusses The Hague Principles on Choice of Law for International Contracts, a new soft-law instrument recently adopted by the Hague Conference of Private International Law.
The Principles will apply to “commercial” contracts only, specifically excluding consumer and employment contracts. For this reason, the Principles adopt a decidedly liberal stance toward party autonomy, exemplified inter alia by a strong endorsement of non-state norms. Such a liberality would be unobjectionable, indeed appropriate, if a contract’s “commerciality” alone would preclude the disparity of bargaining power that characterizes consumer and employment contracts. The fact that — as franchise contracts illustrate — this is not always the case makes even more necessary the deployment of other mechanisms of policing party autonomy. The Principles provide these mechanisms under the rubric of public policy and mandatory rules, but their effectiveness is not beyond doubt.
The Principles are intended to serve as a model for other international or national instruments and as a guide to courts and arbitrators in interpreting or supplementing rules on party autonomy. Like other international instruments, the Principles are as good as the consensus of the participating delegations would allow. But the real test of success for these Principles depends not on academic approbation but on their reception by contracting parties, courts, and arbitrators. While it is too early to tell whether the Principles will pass this test, there is reason for optimism.
In any event, and regardless of whether they will be widely accepted, the Principles will enrich the quality of the international discourse by providing a guiding light in the search for proper solutions to the problems encountered in honoring, and defining the limits of, contractual choice of law in international contracts. This alone would be a significant contribution to the advancement of the art and science of law-shaping.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 29
Keywords: choice of law, conflict of laws, private international law, party autonomy, contracts, lex mercatoria, soft law, Hague conventions, codifcation, choice of law clause, choice of forum clause, forum selection
JEL Classification: K12, K33
Date posted: April 27, 2013
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