Monday, August 23, 2010
Last month Singapore became the second state party to the United Nations Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts (the Electronic Communications Convention). The Convention will enter into effect when the next country ratifies it. Honduras was the first country to ratify the Convention. Click here to see the list of other countries that have signed but not yet ratified the convention, including some major players like the People's Republic of China, South Korea, Saudia Arabia, and the Russian Federation.
Here is an excerpt from an UNCITRAL Press Release issued after Singapore's ratification:
The Convention aims to enhance legal certainty and commercial predictability where electronic communications are used in relation to international contracts. It addresses, among other things, the determination of a party's location in an electronic environment; the time and place of dispatch and receipt of electronic communications; the use of automated message systems for contract formation; and the criteria to be used for establishing functional equivalence between electronic communications and paper documents - including "original" paper documents - as well as between electronic authentication methods and hand-written signatures.
The goals of the Electronic Communications Convention include: removing legal obstacles to the use of electronic communications that may arise from the terms of international agreements concluded before the widespread use of electronic media; fostering the modernization and harmonization of existing e-commerce legislation; and providing jurisdictions that have not yet adopted laws on electronic transactions with a modern set of rules for both domestic and international application.
At the ceremony that took place during the Commission session in New York on 7 July, the Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations, Vanu Gopala Menon said that Singapore recognized the importance of electronic commerce and the use of electronic communications in the development of world trade and that as such, it has been among those states which have been at the forefront of implementing laws relating to electronic commerce and ICT. Mr. Menon said: "I am pleased that Singapore is now among the first in the world to ratify the Convention. The Convention sets a new global standard for national electronic commerce legislation and will remove barriers to cross-border electronic commerce arising from disharmony in national electronic commerce legislation. We hope to see a wide adoption of the Convention so as to achieve harmonisation of electronic commerce legislation amongst countries."
The Convention is open indefinitely for ratification and accession. It will enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiration of six months after the date of deposit of the third instrument of ratification or accession. Further information on the Convention is available on the UNCITRAL website.
Upon depositing its instrument of ratification, Singapore also made the following declaration. It seems a quite sensible one to me at first glance and I would not be surprised to see other countries later making the same or similar declarations upon ratification.
Upon ratification, Singapore declared: The Convention shall not apply to electronic communications relating to any contract for the sale or other disposition of immovable property, or any interest in such property. The Convention shall also not apply in respect of (i) the creation or execution of a will; or (ii) the creation, performance or enforcement of an indenture, declaration of trust or power of attorney, that may be contracted for in any contract governed by the Convention.