Welcome to the Private International Law site, maintained by the Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law (L/PIL) at the U.S. Department of State. L/PIL is responsible for the negotiation and conclusion of international conventions, model laws and rules, legislative guides, and other instruments governing private transactions that cross international borders. For Current Developments, see below.
This website is intended to provide a convenient location to find information regarding private international law in areas such as trade, finance and banking; judicial assistance; arbitration and judgments; matters involving families and children; and wills, trusts and estates.
The database accessible on this page is organized into the following categories:
Arbitration and Judgments
Wills, Trusts and Estates
The categories (other than General Resources) generally contain the following subheadings:
PIL conventions to which the U.S. is a party
PIL conventions for which U.S. ratification/accession is under consideration
Other PIL conventions (illustrative only – not meant to be comprehensive)
Other PIL instruments (e.g., model laws, legislative guides, etc.)
Work in progress
For links to specific conventions or other instruments, please refer to the listings under General Resources for the relevant intergovernmental organizations concerned with the unification and development of private international law: the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL); the Hague Conference on Private International Law (HCOPIL); the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT); and the Organization of American States (OAS).
In addition, the “Current Developments” section below, which is updated quarterly, provides information on current negotiations and projects, the U.S. Government position on certain matters, and upcoming events.
Persons or organizations wishing to comment on this website or to otherwise contact L/PIL are invited to do so by email, fax or letter to the following:
Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law
Suite 357, South Building
2430 E Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20037-2851
Fax: (202) 776-8482
Email: PIL@state.gov attn: Trish Smeltzer
Current Developments (updated 7-3-2013)
The Hague Conference on Private International Law held its annual General Affairs and Policy Council April 9-11, 2013. Highlights:
-The Council gave preliminary approval to the Principles on Choice of Law in International Contracts that had been adopted by a Special Commission in November 2012. The experts who developed the Principles will now prepare a detailed commentary to accompany them. The entire package is expected to be considered by the Council in 2014.
-A working group will convene twice in 2013 to develop a guide to good practice on Article 13(b) of the Hague Child Abduction Convention, which provides for non-return of the child when there is a grave risk that return would expose the child to harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.
-The Permanent Bureau will continue its research on the recognition and enforcement of foreign civil protection orders, and may convene an experts’ group for that purpose.
-The Permanent Bureau will continue its study of international surrogacy issues, and will present a report to the Council in 2014.
-An experts’ group will meet later in 2013 to discuss the recognition and enforcement of child dispute agreements, including those reached through mediation.
-The Technical Assistance Working Group, meeting just prior to the Council, reached agreement on criteria for selection of technical assistance projects and their prioritization, and on procedures for reporting to the Council on technical assistance activities.
-The Council took note of the current status of the Judgments Project. Two meetings relating to that project were held in The Hague February 18-23. A working group made preliminary recommendations regarding development of an instrument on the recognition and enforcement of judgments. An experts’ group considered the desirability and feasibility of an instrument addressing direct grounds of jurisdiction, but did not reach a conclusion. Work in both groups was suspended until October pending resolution of differences regarding the sequencing of the projects.
-Two Special Commissions will be held over the next couple of years: In 2014, a Special Commission on the practical operation of the Hague Service, Evidence and Access to Justice Conventions; and in 2015, a Special Commission on the Intercountry Adoption Convention.
-Effective July 1, Christophe Bernasconi will succeed Hans van Loon as Secretary General of the Hague Conference.
The working group on Article 13(b) of the Child Abduction Convention held its first meeting in The Hague June 6-8.
The experts composing the working group on choice of law in international contracts convened in The Hague June 24-26 to begin work on developing detailed commentary to accompany the Principles that received preliminary endorsement from the General Affairs and Policy Council.
-On May 6-7 in Rome, UNIDROIT hosted the first meeting of the preparatory commission to discuss the development of a registry for the space assets protocol to the Cape Town Convention.
-The Governing Council met in Rome May 8-10. Among other decisions, the Governing Council (1) adopted revised model clauses for contracting parties seeking to use the UNIDROIT Principles of International Commercial Contracts; (2) agreed to proceed with preliminary work on a potential fourth protocol to the Cape Town Convention, covering agricultural, construction, and mining equipment; (3) requested the Secretariat to prepare a feasibility study on the extension of the Cape Town Convention to ships; (4) approved further work on in-progress projects on contract farming and emerging markets securities trading issues; and (5) endorsed a proposal by the United States that UNIDROIT and UNCITRAL should cooperate on substantive projects. Finally, the Governing Council also reappointed Jose Angelo Estrella Faria for a second term as Secretary General.
-Working Group III (Online Dispute Resolution) met in New York May 20-24 to continue work on a framework for online dispute resolution for high-volume, low-value cross-border transactions conducted over the Internet.
- Working Group IV (Electronic Commerce) met in New York May 13-17 to consider draft provisions that could be included in a model law governing electronic transferable records.
-Working Group V – Insolvency met in New York April 15-19. The working group completed work on two projects: revisions to the Guide to Enactment of the Model Law on Cross-border Insolvency relating to the concept of Center of Main Interests (COMI), and revisions to the Legislative Guide on Insolvency Law regarding directors’ obligations in the period approaching insolvency. The Commission will review these instruments in July.
-Working Group VI – Security Interests met in New York April 8-12. This group completed a draft of Technical Legislative Guidance on the Implementation of a Security Rights Registry. This product will also be reviewed at the upcoming Commission meeting.
- UNCITRAL hosted a meeting of experts April 29-30 on commercial fraud. There was broad support at the meeting for holding another colloquium as a follow-up to the 2004 Colloquium and updating the work that UNCITRAL had previously done on commercial fraud indicators. It is expected that the Commission will take a decision on this matter at its July session.
-On May 1-2, UNCITRAL hosted a colloquium in Vienna on public-private partnerships (PPPs). The colloquium discussed existing UNCITRAL instruments on privately-financed infrastructure projects and considered whether future work on this topic—such as development of a model law on PPPs—could be useful.
The UN Center for Trade Facilitation and Electronic Business (UN/CEFACT) held a Forum April 15-19. Numerous recommendations and proposals were considered at the Forum. The UN/CEFACT plenary met June 5-7 to consider matters pertaining to the operation of the organization.
Meetings of the State Department Advisory Committee on Private International Law:
-The Study Group on Family Law will meet on July 12.
-The Council of Diplomatic Representatives will meet in The Hague on July 5 to consider the budget for the coming year (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014).
-The annual plenary session of UNCITRAL will take place in Vienna July 8-26. The fall schedule of UNCITRAL meetings will be discussed at the plenary.
Recent ACPIL meetings:
1. Public Meeting on Electronic Commerce.
A public meeting on Electronic Commerce was held, under the auspices of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Private International Law, on April 30, 2013, at the Department of State, Annex 4, South Building, 2430 E Street, NW, Washington DC. The meeting was chaired by a representative of the Office of the Assistant Legal Adviser for Private International Law.
Working Group IV (electronic commerce) of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law is currently focusing on electronic transferable records. The Working Group has not decided what type of instrument it might ultimately pursue but decided that it would be efficient to work based on the text of a model law. In response to a request from the 46th Session of Working Group IV, the UNCITRAL Secretariat drafted a Note containing draft articles for a model law on electronic transferable records. The Note contains draft articles addressing (A) general provisions; (B) use of electronic transferable records; (C) third-party service providers; and (D) cross-border recognition of electronic transferable records. This Note will be discussed during the 47th Session of Working Group IV May 13-17.
Participants in the public meeting were asked to provide comments on the draft articles in advance of the Working Group meeting.
No matter was resolved. No report was approved.
2. Public Meeting on Online Dispute Resolution
A public meeting of the Study Group on Online Dispute Resolution was held under the auspices of the Advisory Committee on Private International Law on May 8, 2013, at the Department of State, Room 240, South Building, State Department Annex 4, 2430 E Street, NW, Washington, DC.
The meeting was convened to discuss the continuing work in UNCITRAL on the development of online dispute resolution (ODR) legal instruments for resolving both business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) cross-border e-commerce disputes, in anticipation of a seventh meeting of the UNCITRAL working group on online dispute resolution scheduled to take place in New York, May 20-24. The working group was established by the Commission in July 2010 pursuant to a U.S. proposal. The UNCITRAL working group is preparing generic ODR procedural rules applicable to low-value, high-volume cross-border e-commerce transactions as well as separate annexes on guidelines and minimum requirements for ODR providers and neutrals, substantive legal principles for resolving disputes, and a cross-border enforcement mechanism.
The Study Group reviewed the current Secretariat draft of the proposed UNCITRAL generic ODR procedural rules and the report of the last UNCITRAL working group session in December 2012. The discussion centered on several new provisions in the Secretariat draft (WP119, add1) including: article 9(8) providing that the online arbitrator shall decide ex aequo et bono, in accordance with the terms of the contract; article 9 ter providing for an internal review mechanism; article 10 on place of arbitration; and a two track approach providing for both negotiation and facilitated settlement as well as negotiation, facilitated settlement, and arbitration.
No matter was resolved. No report was approved. It is expected that another meeting will be scheduled after the May 20-24 working group session.