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Reproduced with the permission of Oceana Publications

excerpt from


United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods

Convention on the Limitation Period in the International Sale of Goods

Commentary by
Prof. Dr. jur. Dr. sc. oec. Fritz Enderlein
Prof. Dr. jur. Dr. sc. oec. Dietrich Maskow

Oceana Publications, 1992

Article 28 [Judgement for specific performance] [1]


If, in accordance with the provisions of this Convention, one party is entitled to require performance [2] of any obligation by the other party, a court [4] is not bound [3] to enter a judgement for specific performance unless the court would do so under its own law [5] in respect of similar contracts of sale [6] not governed by this Convention.


1. compromise language
2. right to specific performance; restrictions upon this right
3. court is not bound to require specific performance
4. arbitral tribunals as well as courts?
5. under its own law
6. change from "could" to "would" ]


[1] [compromise language]

This provision contains a compromise between the legal systems of the continental European countries and those countries which are influenced by their law, which generally provide for the right to performance, on the one hand, and the legal systems which are based on the common law, on the other (comparison of laws Reinhard/Dölle, 109 fol). The right to specific performance is granted in [page 120] the common law countries only under particular conditions (summarizing Honnold, 225 fol). The reasons given for that situation include the view that the well-being of the society requires that one party breaks a contract and makes other arrangements if this is more favourable to him, taking account of the damages payable to the aggrieved party. This would help to achieve the most effective allocation of resources (Farnsworth, 247 fol). For the scope covered by the CISG, this concept is questionable because the CISG limits claims for damages, in particular, to the damage foreseeable at the time of the conclusion of the contract (c. Art. 74). There is no differentiation between deliberate and negligent damage so that this limitation will become effective in any case. It seems problematic to refer to a more strict or even mandatory liability under national law in the event that a damage is caused deliberately. A situation where it becomes obvious retroactively that a different allocation of resources would have been more appropriate is, so to speak, per definitionem unforeseeable because it is exactly a re-distribution which is to overcome the consequences of an overly strict planning (Honnold, 226, referring to Farnsworth). Here the problems involved in the integration of concrete domestic rules into another context become clearly visible.

It has to be admitted, however, that the right to specific performance of the contract in international trade in many instances is not practicable because assertion of that right, even if it exists without any doubt, is much more complicated than in the case of financial claims and of the right to avoid the contract. But this depends on the state of performance. In general, the realization of a transaction cannot be halted until there is a decision on the right to specific performance. The enforcement of a relevant decision entails additional problems. The authors of this commentary, therefore, agree in that the right to performance is rarely asserted.

By contrast to many national laws, the CISG does not provide for the possibility of exemption from specific performance, even in the context of impediments (Art. 79, paragraph 5). Only in the case of a breach caused by the other party (Art. 80) may the result be an exemption from performance. Such exemption may, however, under this Article be granted in accordance with national law (Schlechtriem, 51; Lando/BB, 237; note 13.6. of Art. 79). This does not exclude that in regard to claims for damages, which may be based on the same facts, the reasons for exemption under Article 79 are invoked (unclear insofar Loewe, 50). [page 121]

[2] [right to specific performance; restrictions upon this right]

      [2.1] The CISG grants the obligee a right to specific performance. In the event of a breach of contract such right persists as long as there is no right to avoidance or it can be asserted alternatively instead of the latter (Art. 46, paragraph 1; Art. 62): The rights to delivery of substitute goods and to repair, respectively under certain restrictive conditions (Art. 46, paragraphs 2 and 3), constitute specific forms of the right to performance.

      [2.2] Publications (above all Honnold, 222 fol; similarly Lando/BB, 237 fol) rightly point to the fact that the CISG, apart from the restrictions indicated here, contains certain other, as we believe, indirect restrictions of the right to specific performance. This refers, in particular, to the obligation to sell the goods (Art. 88, paragraph 2), whose realization removes the right of acceptance and turns the right to a price into a right to claim damages for possible losses. Also the obligation to mitigate losses under Article 77 may entail substitute purchase or sale instead of insisting on performance (doubting insofar Farnsworth, 250, on the draft). The obligation to mitigate losses may, however, result in an obligation to cease preparation of the contract in the event of a notified breach of contract (cancellation of the contract), to avoid the contract (Art. 72, paragraph 1) and to claim damages.

[3] [court is not bound to require specific performance]

This is not to limit rights to specific performance granted by the CISG. A court can grant a right to specific performance in such events where it would normally not do so (Honnold, 225; Lando/BB, 237).

[4] [arbitral tribunals as well as courts?]

At the diplomatic conference (O.R., 305) some speakers mentioned that these provisions would also have to apply to arbitral tribunals. Nothing should be said against, if arbitral tribunals would recognize the right to specific performance only in a limited way.

[5] [under its own law]

This rule positively determines the applicable national law. It does not refer to the norms of the international private law of the forum, as believed the Greek delegate at the conference (O.R., 305). The rule itself rather has the character of a conflict-of-law rule, to put it more concretely, of a horizontal conflict-of-law rule, (Introductory remarks 2.3.) even if only a very specific legal issue is connected. The law of the courts is to be invoked even when another law is the statute of the contract (in detail Honnold, 224). It is also not relevant whether what matters is material or procedural law. [page 122]

[6] [change from "could" to "would"]

In a Soviet-American compromise in the lobby, which referred, on the one hand, to the written form requirement and, on the other, to specific performance, "could" was changed into "would" at the conference following a British and an American proposal which, in regard to the substance, were identical (O.R., 100). Hence, American (Farnsworth, 250) and British (O.R., 304 fol) concerns were met, noting that their courts had a large scope of operation, but did not exhaust it. The projected rule, however, could force them to do so.

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Pace Law School Institute of International Commercial Law - Last updated August 9, 2002
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