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出口合同是国际贸易过程中的重要一环,它不仅用法律形式和内容把进出口双方先前协议或订单中的具体交易的内容、数量、价格、时间及付款方式等规范化,而且规定了进出口双方在今后生产、包装、验货、交货、货运、收货及付款等方面的责任义务,这类规范化的合同实质上是为了防止进出口双方在未来一旦出现意见不合之时,双方可以以此合同为依据达到求同存异之结果。简言之,合同乃是不合之作,即为了避免不合在先、解决不合于后而做的同意书。尽管出口合同如此重要,但在大量发生的中美追债案件中一个常见的现象则是进出口双方往往以进口方的一份订单甚或一份电子邮件或传真替代了不应缺少的或不可省略的出口合同,直至进出口双方在发生歧异、争议、延迟付款甚或拒绝付款等情形时,出口方才发现自己没有可以据理力争的书面合同去要求进口方履行相应的责任义务。因此,出口合同是出口商必须重视和履行的重要的安全出口防范措施。

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同时,中国出口商还必须清醒地意识到:由于中美两国之间至今尚未签订司法合作协定,尤其是缺乏中美法院判决互相承认的协议,那么在中美两国各自拥有相当不同的法律制度及其法院体系的条件下,出口合同还涉及到一个关键性的方面,即在中国制定的出口合同,或者在中国法院判决生效的出口合同,并非能够直接地获得美国法院的认可,它还面临着一个在美国法院重新提交诉讼以及判决的过程。即使在中美进出口合同中具体规定了有关出现合同争议需经中国仲裁委员会仲裁决定责任归属问题的条款,也假设中国出口商在中国的仲裁过程中获胜,中国仲裁委员会发出的仲裁书仍然需要到美国的法院获得再次认可。由此可见,出口合同所涉及到的多重困难切不可轻视。

为了提高在中国境内签署的出口合同能够在美国境内产生预期的法律效力,并且为了进一步确保在美国进口商万一出现延迟付款或拒不付款的情形下能够及时地通过有效的行政手段或法律手段对美国进口商采取强制付款,我们建议中国出口商应当考虑聘请美国律师审阅出口合同。具体说来,美国律师帮助审阅中国出口商的出口合同有下列几项有利之处:第一,美国律师清楚地知道美国本土的、本州的、本地区的相关商业法律和民事法律,可以运用在美国商业活动中所使用的商业惯例和法律惯例去弥补一般的出口合同中所缺乏的美国法律制裁部分;第二,美国进口商一旦看到中国出口商有美国律师在出口合同上签字盖章时,就会更尊重出口合同并履行合同中所规定的责任义务,因为美国进口商也会清醒地意识到一旦其违约的话,美国律师在美国本土可以立即采取法律行动,而通常不会发生长期拖延的现象,也就是说聘请美国律师审阅出口合同无疑中对美国进口商产生了无形的制衡和威慑力量;第三,事实上聘请美国律师审阅出口合同的费用相对说来是很低的,通常在1000至3000美元之间,当然视具体的合同内容简单或复杂以及长短有所不同。相对于万一发生美国进口商延迟付款甚或拒绝付款的所造成的数万或数十万美元的惨重损失金额,该项费用理应在大多数中国出口企业可以承受的范围之内,形象地说来就是丢芝麻保西瓜或者买把好锁防贼偷;第四,一旦中国出口商建立了与美国律师的商业关系,美国律师也大都会免费接听中国出口商的有关美国境内贸易事项的咨询,中国出口商因此可以获得相应的免费法律咨询,防止其它问题的可能发生,在美国律师平均每小时收费300至500美元的情形下,让美国律师审阅一份合同所带来的相关的经济利益也是不言而喻的。若贵公司需要此项特别服务,敬请直接向中美律师追债团队咨询细节。

中国出口商在与美国买家讨论出口合同过程中务必注意的13要点
Thirteen Points for Chinese Exporters to Address in Sales Contracts With United States Buyers

       A written contract is a document that sets forth both commercial terms of a sale (the product, quantity, price, etc.), but also defines the legal relations between the buyer and seller.  Our recommendation is that Chinese exporters should include contract terms that provide legal certainty in the event of a misunderstanding between the buyer and seller.  We have prepared a list of 13 points that an exporter should consider addressing, and these are set forth below.

       Please note that this list is not exhaustive.  Depending on the nature of the contract, other issues may be important to address as well.  At the same time, not all of these issues arise in every sales transaction.  For example, if no confidential information will be exchanged between the buyer and seller, it would not be necessary to address this issue in the contract.  Therefore, this list should be seen as a starting point for exporters who are interested in achieving a higher degree of legal certainty in their contracts.  We would be pleased to provide further guidance to exporters who wish to apply these principles to their contracts.

  1. Parties’ Names and Places of Business

Why?

       Determine whether transaction may be subject to UN CISG.

       Determine whether jurisdiction and choice of law provisions have sufficient connection to contract.

Comment: Make certain that the formal names of the parties, any “doing business as” aliases or trade names under which they conduct their operations, and the addresses of their principal place of business or, alternatively, the place of contract performance.

 

  1. Terms of Delivery and Risk of Loss

Why?

       Determine when and how delivery is effected.

       Determine legal risks of loss connected with transportation of merchandise.

       Determine transportation and related costs borne by each party.

       Caution: Delivery terms may also determine passage of title – consider whether you want delivery and title to occur simultaneously.

Comment: Make certain that you identify the appropriate term, the INCOTERMS edition used, and the appropriate place under the INCOTERM group chosen.  For example, FAS or FOB would identify the port of departure, FAS would identify the place where the goods are handed over for international transportation (which can be the port of departure or some other named place, such as the shipping line’s warehouse).  A C group term would identify the port of arrival.  A D group term would identify the place where the seller’s responsibilities for transportation and risk of loss end, that is, the place of delivery.

For example:  “The goods will be sold CPT (INCOTERMS 2000) [named place of destination].”

 

  1. Coverage of Warranties/Returns

Why?

       Identify parties’ expectations.

       Vary from warranty provisions set forth under statutory law (e.g., UCC).

       Identify method and cost for returns.

Comment: You should identify the scope of the seller’s warranty responsibilities: how long is the product warranted, are there any exceptions (for example, misuse of the product), will the product be replaced or repaired and will the seller have either option, if the product is to be repaired, where will this take place and who is responsible, and will the costs be shared.  You also should address the buyer’s obligation to identify defective goods: when must notice be given and what obligation does the seller have once a defect is brought to its attention.

 

  1. Notices and Waiver

Why?

       Identify binding method for notifying parties.

       Protect against practices varying written terms of contract.

Comment: Be sure to identify the method by which notices must be provided and to/by whom they must be sent.  For waivers, you want to ensure that the written terms of the contract do not become subordinated to informal practices or accommodations between the parties.

 

  1. Renegotiation, Alteration and Amendment

Why?

       Provide method for renegotiating etc.

       Ensure there is a written document.

       Protect against informal/discrepant methods of changing contract.

Comment: You want to provide a method for renegotiating the agreement, while ensuring that it is done in a formal manner, by authorized persons, and reduced to writing.

 

  1. Indemnification

Why?

       Protect buyer against third party claims.

       Permit seller to identify limits of potential liability.

Comment: You should define the extent of one party’s obligation to indemnify the other, both in terms of the activities covered and the monetary limits (if any) of the indemnification obligation. 

 

  1. Insurance

Why?

       Cover indemnification requirements.

Comment: You want to identify the type of insurance, the activities covered, the amount of the policy, and any proof that the party obligated to obtain the insurance must provide to the other (for example, certificate of insurance).

 

  1. Confidentiality of Information

Why?

       Identify and Protect against disclosure of confidential information.

       Make improper disclosure a breach of contract and provide remedies (damages, contract termination).

Comment:  This issue does not arise if no confidential information is or will be exchanged as a result of the contract.  If confidential information is a concern under the contract, you should identify the information or type of information considered to be confidential, the away in which its confidential status will be communicated to the receiving party, the means for disclosing it and for protecting it, the length of time it must be protected after the sale is made or the contract terminates, and the consequences if its confidential status is breached (for example, will there be a set monetary penalty, in the form of liquidated damages, or must a dollar amount of the damages be proven?  Do you want to have damages as a penalty at all?)

 

  1. Protection of Intellectual Property

Why?

       Indemnification for breach of intellectual property rights.

       Protection of either party’s intellectual property.

       Prevent transfer of intellectual property right from one party to another.

       Reflect terms of licensing agreement.

Comment:  Again, this issue does not arise if the merchandise being sold does not have intellectual property rights attached to it.  If it does, your contractual provision should identify the intellectual property and its ownership, as well as the rights of use and (if any) ownership the other party acquires in the intellectual property, process and terms of transfer of the rights (if appropriate), and indemnification of the purchaser by the seller in the event a third party claims infringement of its own intellectual property.  Note that these points may be addressed in a separate licensing agreement.

 

  1. Compliance with Laws

Why?

       Impose liability for one party’s violation of legal requirements.

       Place independent responsibility for legal compliance on other party.

Comment:         Although each party has an independent obligation to comply with government legal requirements, it’s a good idea to make such performance a contractual obligation as well.  The contract should address the consequences of one party’s breaching this requirement (for example, termination at the option of the other party.)

 

  1. Excusable Non-Performance

Why?

       Define those events that permit party to fail to meet terms of contract.

Comment: You always should define the events beyond anyone’s control (“force majeure”) that excuse one party (usually the seller) from performing its obligations under the contract.  Any such provision should specify the timing and type of notice that the party invoking this provision must provide the other that it is being invoked.

 

  1. Limits on Liability/Liquidated Damages

Why?

       Identify, quantify, and limit potential damages.

Comment:  A “liquidated damages” provision identifies the damages one party owes to another for breaching the contract as a matter of agreement.  This removes the need to prove actual damages in a court or arbitration proceeding.  If you decide to use such a provision, it should identify the amount of damages and the circumstances in which they must be paid (do you want them to apply to minor breaches, or only to a total default by one of the parties?)  Note that the damage amount chosen cannot be punitive in amount. 

 

13.  Choice of Law/Dispute Resolution

Why?

       Obtain certainty re applicable substantive law.

       Specify method and place of dispute resolution.

Comment:  For this provision, you want to address three separate but related issues: (1) which country’s laws will govern interpretation of the contract, (2) what means will be used to resolve disputes (arbitration or court), and (3) where will the dispute be resolved (where will the arbitration be held or which court will hear the case). Top

 

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