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永衡原创 | 新冠疫情与国际贸易 Novel Coronavirus and International Trade

日期: 2020-03-26
浏览次数: 27

如何在疫情影响下顺利交易,问题出现时有效规避风险、减小自身损失?这里仅就因疫情可能造成的几个常见问题,尤其是合同迟延履行所涉及到的法律实践分享一点看法,希望有所帮助。

How to smoothly trade under the influence of the epidemic, effectively avoid risks and reduce losses when problems ariseThe view of legal practice involved in some common problems caused by the epidemic, particularly delayed contract performance shall be shared here, which I hope to be helpful.

 

一、明确风险转移节点。

Defining the risk transfer.

风险的转移就意味着责任归属主体的变更。为了简化明确国际贸易中的交易细节,国际商会制定了《国际贸易术语解释通则》(建议深究不同版本中贸易术语的不同含义,国际商会刚刚做出的Incoterms2020对不同贸易术语加入了新的含义,不同版本的贸易术语含义有所不同)。打个比方来说,Incotems2000 中FOB,当货物在指定的装运港越过船舷时,卖方完成交货,风险转移给买方,卖方不再承担违约责任。也就是说,尤其在发生类似于运输延迟方面的问题的时候,抛开不可抗力的问题不谈,先看风险转移节点。

   The transfer of risk means change of the Party with responsibility. In order to simplify and clarify the details of transactions in international trade, the International Chamber of Commerce formulated the (INCOTERMS 2020, which has just been made by the International Chamber of Commerce, adding new connotation to different terms, and different versions of trade terms have different meanings). For example, FOB in Incoterms2000,when the goods delivered pass the ship's rail at the named port of shipment, the delivery by the Seller is completed, the Goods risk is then transferred to the buyer, and the seller no longer bears the liability for breach of contract.That is to say, especially when problems similar to transportation delays occur, put aside the issue of force majeure, look into the risk transfer first.

 

二、不可抗力的适用。

Application of Force Majeure.

   在货物风险尚未转移时,不可回避的就是讨论不可抗力的适用。但需要注意的是,不可抗力的适用需要一些条件:

   When the goods risk has not yet passed, the discussion over application of force majeure is inevitable. However, it should be noted that the application of force majeure requires certain conditions:

 

1.合同约定适用。

   鼓励促成交易和意思自治的基本原则都会倾向于遵从买卖双方对于合同约定明确内容的遵守。因此,不论国际贸易合同中适用什么法律,如果双方明确约定并准确描述了疫情发生的情形,那么未能依约履行合同约定义务的一方在适用该条款的情况下免除违约责任。但是,在此情况下很多人忽略的是在适用该条款的情况下应当如何约定后续处理。大多数合同内容仅仅是对于适用不可抗力条款情况下双方协商”等类似内容,而并未约定后续合同应当如何履行。这种情况下如果协商不成易产生争议。

   我在英国大律师事务所工作交流期间就遇到过一件此类情形的案件,其中一方是我国一家造船厂。在合同约定不可抗力适用的情况下,因为时间拖延、国际形势、原油价格等原因致使合同继续履行的基础已经不复存在,合同签订目的无法实现,双方协商不成,致使买卖双方进入漫长的诉讼程序。

1. The contract agreement applies.

    The basic principles of encouraging facilitating transactions and party autonomy will tend to comply with the explicit content of the contract between buyers and sellers.Therefore, no matter what law applies in international trade contracts, in case two parties explicitly agree and accurately describe the situation of the epidemic, then the party who fails to fulfill the contractual obligations is exempted from liability for breach of contract once the clause applies. However, what many people neglect is how to agree on the subsequent treatment in the case of the application of this clause. Most of the contract content is only for the application of force majeure clause 'negotiation between two parties' and other similar content, but do not include on how the subsequent contract should be performed. In this case, if the consultation fails, it will easily lead to disputes.

I came across a case of this kind when I worked in a British Barrister’s Chamber, one of the parties was a shipyard in China.In the case of force majeure stipulated in the contract, the basis for continuing to perform the contract has ceased to exist due to time delay, international situation, crude oil price and other reasons, the purpose of signing the contract can not be realized, and the negotiation between the two parties fell apart, resulting in the buyer and seller entering a long litigation procedure.

 

2.法律适用。

   如果合同中没有明确约定不可抗力的相关内容,就法律适用来说,这里面分为三种情况。比较明确的是,如果合同中对于适用法律进行了明确约定,那么相对来说比较容易处理。

   简要解释一下世界范围内的法律体系,主要分为大陆法系和普通法系,又可以不太严谨的称为成文法和判例法以便于理解(其实判例法也是有成文的法律规定的,这里就不展开了)。成文法国家所依据的法律由立法机关进行制定并发布,而判例法国家是根据以往曾经的判例来作为纠纷的判决依据。

1)适用中国法。由于我国法律明确规定了不可抗力的具体内容。并且从我国疫情爆发以来的法律规定解释来看,确因疫情原因而影响到合同履行的情况可以免除违约责任,由双方另行协商讨论未来合同履行方式。而在适用其他成文法系国家法律的情况下就需要根据法律规定具体分析。

2)适用判例法系国家法律。前面提到,原则上,除合同约定内容以外,没有具体法律规定约制买卖双方约定义务。因此也就不存在明文规定不可抗力适用,免除违约责任的情形。当然这里面的确有一个例外,英美法的合同受阻理论。但是这个理论的适用条件过于苛刻,就目前疫情的情况来看,该理论适用的可能性非常渺茫。

2. Application of law.

   Once there is no clear agreement in the contract in relation to force majeure, there shall be three situations in terms of the application of law. It is clear that if the applicable law is clearly agreed in the contract, it is relatively easy to deal with.

   A brief explanation of the legal system in the world, mainly divided into civil law and common law, and can be less rigorous called statute law and case law to facilitate understanding (in fact, there is also certain written legal provisions in the case law system countries, which shall not be discussed further in this occasion).Statutory law countries are based on the law enacted and issued by the legislature, and the case law countries are based on past precedents as the basis for subsequent disputes.

(1)Application of Chinese law.

    The law of our country clearly stipulates the specific content of force majeure. On top of that, from the interpretation of the legal provisions since the outbreak of the epidemic in China, the situation that affects the performance of the contract due to the epidemic can be exempted from the liability for breach of contract, and the parties can negotiate separately to discuss the way of future contract performance.In the case of applying the laws of other written law countries, it needs to be analyzed in accordance with the legal provisions.

(2) Application of case law system.

    As mentioned earlier, in principle, in addition to the content of the contract, there is no specific legal provision to restrict the contractual obligations of the seller and the buyer.Therefore, there is no explicit provision on the application of force majeure to exempt the liability for breach of contract. Although there is an exception to the common law theory of Contract Frustration.However, the applicable conditions of this theory are too harsh, and the possibility of its application is very slim in the current situation of the epidemic.

 

3.极端情况下,合同中并没有约定疫情不可抗力以及适用法律。

   双方也无法就适用法律达成一致的情况下,就争议一般采取最密切联系原则确定适用法律。在国内某法院一个我代理的案件中就有类似的问题,就根据上述原则帮助外方客户在中国法院适用了外国法律。

3.In extreme conditions, the contract does not stipulate the epidemic force majeure and applicable laws.

    In case the two parties can not reach an agreement on the applicable law, the principle of closest connection is generally adopted to determine the applicable law for disputes. In a case I represented in a domestic court, I had similar problems and helped foreign clients apply foreign laws in Chinese courts according to the above principles.

 

另外多提一点,如果我方的迟延履行合同义务行为被认定为受到不可抗力影响因而免除违约责任,那么客户的解除合同或常说的撤单可能构成合同的违法解除,因而可能赋予我方权利向客户主张违约损失,甚至同时要求继续履行合同。

In addition, if our delay in fulfilling contractual obligations is deemed to be affected by force majeure and thus exempted from liability for breach of contract, then the termination of the contract or the cancellation of the order by the client, as often said, may constitute an illegal termination of the contract, which may entitle us to claim damages for breach of contract from the client, or even to continue to perform the contract at the same time.

 

三、争议解决方式的选择

Choice of Dispute Resolution

即使上述法律事实都已确定,也并不意味着结果就没有任何回旋余地。这也是为什么争议解决方式是我们必须涵盖在合同内容里面的重要原因。

Even if the above legal facts have been determined, it does not necessarily mean that there is no room for manoeuvre.This is why the dispute resolution is an important reason for us to include it in the contract.

1.诉讼

没有有效协议约定商事仲裁的情况下,争取对自己有利的诉讼管辖权很关键。为什么?一旦通过诉讼由法院法官来审理案件,那么必然会涉及到在事实认定和法律适用方面的问题。事实认定上来讲,公正审理作为大前提,不管是从文化背景还是行为习惯,法官都更为容易理解本国一方主体的行为方式;法律适用上来讲,即使在一国法院需用另一国的法律来审理案件,作为法院所在国法官,其判决思路很大可能上是先下结论,再用另一国的法律去解释这个结论,因而造成不同国家法院得出截然不同的判决结果,而疫情的影响某种程度上会加重这种可能性。

1.Litigation

  In the absence of a valid agreement on commercial arbitration, it is crucial to strive for jurisdiction in their own favor.Why?Once the judge of the court hears the case through litigation, it will inevitably involve problems in fact finding and law application.In fact, fair trial as a major premise, whether from the cultural background or behavior habits, the judge is more likely to understand the behavior of the party from the country rather than opposite; As far as the application of law is concerned, even if a court in one country needs to use the law of another country to hear a case, as a judge in the country where the court is located, his judgment is likely to draw a conclusion first and then use the law of another country to interpret this conclusion, thus resulting differently in different jurisdictions. The impact of the epidemic will to some extent aggravate this possibility .

2.国际仲裁

   仲裁员的选择对于案件本身与法院法官的影响是相似的。他们都会根据自身已经了解的法律解释体系去理解案件;仲裁机构作出的裁决书需要经过执行所在国的效力认可程序才能进一步强制执行。目前已经有一百二十多个国家和地区加入了纽约公约,因此对于裁决书的执行有一定保障。但因为不同国家的法制体系区别很大,因此从认可到执行仍然是需要根据各个国家地区的不同情况而相应调整应对策略,包括但不限于时间跨度上、财产保全上、执行力度上以及破产制度上等等。

2. International Arbitration

The choice of arbitrators has similar impact on the case as the judges of the Court. They will understand the case according to the legal interpretation system they already know; The award made by the arbitration institution can be further enforced only after the validity approval procedure of the country where the enforcement is located.At present, more than 120 countries and regions have acceded to the New York Convention, so there is a certain guarantee for the enforcement of awards.However, because the legal systems of different countries are vastly different, it is still necessary to adjust the strategies according to the different situations in different jurisdictions, including but not limited to the time span, property preservation, enforcement and bankruptcy system.

总的来说,对于正在履行的合同,由于在法律适用、风险转移等方面都已经确定,因此我们着重需要根据具体情况针对自身有利的方式去进行合同履行、证据搜集确认、分析案件具体情况以尽早作出合理准备。

    Generally speaking, for the contract being performed, because the application of law and the transfer of risk have been determined, we need to perform the contract, collect and confirm evidence, analyze specific details of the case in a way that is beneficial to ourselves in order to make reasonable preparations as soon as possible.

   针对疫情对国际贸易的影响,综合考虑各类条款可能对我方未来可能造成的法律风险,合理权衡取舍。

    In view of the impact of the epidemic on international trade, we should consider the legal risks that may be caused by various provisions in the future, and make a reasonable trade-off.


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