Statement by Mary McLeod, U.S. Legal Adviser, on Agenda Item 79: Report of the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), in the Sixth Committee of the Sixty-fourth Session of the United Nations General Assembly

U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
Mary McLeod, U.S. Legal Adviser
New York, NY
October 12, 2009


Thank you Mr. Chairman. The United States thanks the Chairman and Secretariat of UNCITRAL for their leadership and hard work, as reflected in the Report of the Commission’s work at its 42nd Plenary Session.  The United States strongly supports both the technical and practical work of UNCITRAL and its working methods.  

Mr. Chairman, the United States notes with particular satisfaction the opening for signature at The Hague in September 2009 of the new UNCITRAL convention on carriage of goods by sea, as well as related road and rail transportation which the United States has signed.  This achievement may bring harmonization to this important area of trade and commercial law for the first time in over 80 years. 

We also note the completion of the UNCITRAL practice guide for cross-border “protocols” to coordinate and achieve cooperation between bankruptcy authorities and courts in various countries, on matters involving cross-border business bankruptcy cases.  In view of the heightened importance of achieving international cooperation in such matters, given the economic circumstances of the past year, the timing of this achievement is particularly welcome.  The guide supports implementation of the 1997 UNCITRAL Model Law on cross-border insolvency cases, which Congress enacted as part of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code effective in 2006. 

The United States supports the continuing work of the Commission in its Working Groups on international procurement, commercial arbitration, secured finance and intellectual property law, and business insolvency law and looks forward to conclusion of the work of several working groups at the next Plenary Session of the Commission in 2010.  We also support consideration of new work on electronic commerce, including work on “single window” projects (structured channels for electronic facilitation of import-export trade) in conjunction with the World Customs Organization (WCO), The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and others, and work on on-line electronic dispute resolution. 

The United States has joined like-minded states at the Commission in rejecting proposals over the last two years to revise rules and procedures for the Commission’s work which would have the effect of sharply reducing the effectiveness of the Commission.  Key issues have included the role of observer states whose views are considered in all matters except for formal voting, and technical NGO’s, which the United States and like-minded states have supported in their role of providing needed advice and information on transactional practices and economic impacts of proposals, as the basis on which governments have assurance that solutions proposed actually work in current transactional practice.  Another key issue has been the method of reaching agreement.  Since 1970, the Commission has proceeded on the basis of a substantial prevailing majority, rather than full unanimity, since getting unanimous agreement on detailed commercial law texts is unworkable, subject always to the right of any member state to obtain a vote on any matter.  Shifting to a unanimity standard (absence of objection) would substantially curtail the Commission’s five-decade production of detailed commercial law treaties, model laws and other texts

At the request of developing country member states, the UN Legal Office’s Trade Law Branch is exploring the feasibility of posting Secretariat professional staff, possibly on a part time basis, to collaborate with other UN bodies, and other means to better accomplish requests for technical assistance.  As stated at the Plenary session, enhancing Technical Assistance, if done within existing resources, is a positive step that benefits developing countries.

 The United States looks forward to another productive year of the Commission’s work.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.


PRN: 2009/212