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Top international lawyers will meet in Rome during May to discuss how best to further a uniform legal framework for international business contracts.

Convened by ICC Italy, the Italian Arbitration Association and the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT), the conference will examine the roles of hard law (rules imposed by governments) and soft law (private-sector business rules) in cross-border commerce.

Experts will also consider where the balance between these two kinds of legal instruments should lie in order to establish an effective legal system for international business.

Fabio Bortolotti, a partner at the law firm Lexjus-Buffa, Bortolotti & Mathis and chair of the ICC Commission on Commercial Law and Practice (CLP), stresses the relevance and timeliness of the “Hard Law/Soft Law “conference for both the legal and business communities.

“All business people engaged in international commerce are faced with the question of which rules should govern their transactions,” he says. 

“The increasing global flow of goods and services, new technologies and business models have brought business people and lawmakers to a crossroads. Key decisions need to be made about what should be the guiding principles when shaping tomorrow’s framework for international trade.”

The current framework for international contracts is based on a mixture of hard and soft legal instruments including international conventions, model laws, general principles or rules for incorporation into individual contracts, model contracts, case law and arbitral awards.

ICC’s Commission on Commercial Law and Practice has played a significant role in the creation of many of these trade rules including Incoterms 2000 and ICC model clauses and contracts.

Jernej Sekolec, secretary of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), and one of the speakers at the “Hard Law/Soft Law “event, has called for an assessment of the efficacy of today’s rules.

“We must ask how effective these different types of instruments have been to the global business community as a means to overcome differences in national laws and legal systems,” Sekolec adds.

“It will be interesting to discuss with both developers and users of these rules how the various institutions involved in the field of international commercial law can best work together to promote cross-border commerce.” 

The conference will be held on May 27 at UNIDROIT headquarters in Rome. Founded in 1926 under the then League of Nations, UNIDROIT is an independent intergovernmental organization dedicated to the harmonization of private law between states.

ICC’s Commission on Commercial Law and Practice will hold its biannual meeting at the same venue on May 28. The agenda will cover legal issues affecting international business including electronic contracting, outsourcing, agency and distributorship, UNIDROIT principles, international legal harmonisation, software licensing, turnkey transactions and jurisdiction and applicable law issues.