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疫情背景下國際商事合同中的不可抗力條款

時間: 2020-02-19 14:53:35 來源:   網友評論 0
  • 新型冠狀病毒疫情被確認為國際突發公共衛生事件(以下簡稱PHEIC)后,有些國家相繼采取了一系列的管控措施防范疫情的蔓延,如越南暫緩貨物清關,澳大利亞、菲律賓對中國船舶加強??肯拗?,印尼、約旦暫停進口部分中國商品。顯而易見,疫情的發展沖擊了國際商業活動,也嚴重影響了廣大進出口企業的利益。

作者:丁婷婷/盧志敏

來源:康橋律師事務所(ID:kangqiaolawfirm)


新型冠狀病毒疫情被確認為國際突發公共衛生事件(以下簡稱PHEIC)后,有些國家相繼采取了一系列的管控措施防范疫情的蔓延,如越南暫緩貨物清關,澳大利亞、菲律賓對中國船舶加強??肯拗?,印尼、約旦暫停進口部分中國商品。顯而易見,疫情的發展沖擊了國際商業活動,也嚴重影響了廣大進出口企業的利益。


Since WHO announced the novel coronavirus outbreak as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), some countries have adopted a series of measures to prevent the spread of the epidemic. Vietnam has suspended customs clearance, Australia and Philippines have restricted Vessels coming from China from berthing, Indonesia and Jordan have suspended imports of Chinese products as well. Obviously, the coronavirus impacted international businesses and seriously affected the import and export enterprises.


一、中國國際貿易促進委員會為減少廣大企業的損失,依據其章程規定出具不可抗力證明,但不可抗力這一概念并非各個國家的通用概念,在不同法系下對其認定也有所不同,不可一概而論,而且將貿促會的不可抗力證明統一作為商事領域的不可抗力事實性證明,也是不確切的。那么國際商事合同中的不可抗力條款的形式和作用是怎樣的呢?


I. China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) has issued certificates of force majeure in accordance with its articles of association to reduce the losses of enterprises. However, force majeure is not a common concept in every country, and its recognition differs in various judicial systems. It is also improper to use the force majeure certificate from CCPIT as the uniform factual proof of force majeure in the commercial field. So what is the form and function of force majeure clauses in international commercial contracts?


(一)大陸法下,不可抗力主要表現為法條中的明示條款,如《法國民法典》第 1147 條、第1148條之規定,“凡債務人不能證明其不履行債務系由于不能歸究于其的外來原因時”、“如債務人因不可抗力或不測事變,不能履行其承擔的給付或作為之債務,或者違約進行對其禁止之事項,不引起任何損害賠償責任?!薄兜聡穹ǖ洹返?06條之規定,“在時效期間的最后6個月內權利人因不可抗力無法實施權利的,則該請求權時效中止”。以上均詳細規定了不可抗力或者類似不可抗力的內容,即形成了不可抗力法定的地位。那么,當國際商事合同條款中沒有約定不可抗力,但合同的適用法規定了不可抗力的法定地位時,發生了不能預見、不能避免并不能克服的客觀情況, 使得合同目的不能實現,是可以根據相關法條之規定援引不可抗力的內容,主張免除部分或者全部責任的,法院或者仲裁庭也可依情況衡量。


1. Under civil law, force majeure is manifested in explicit provisions of statutes. For example, Articles 1147 and 1148 of the French Civil Code stipulates “when the debtor does not prove that the non-performance comes from an external cause which may not be ascribed to him”, “no claim for damages arises where a debtor was prevented from transferring or from doing that to which he was bound, or did what was forbidden to him, by reason of force majeure or of a fortuitous event.” Article 206 of the German Civil Code provides that “limitation is suspended for as long as, within the last six months of the limitation period, the obligee is prevented by force majeure from prosecuting his rights.” The legal status of force majeure is formed by the statutes in civil law judicial systems. Therefore, when force majeure is not in the terms of the international commercial contract, but the applicable law of the contract contains the legal status of force majeure, a party may invoke force majeure to exempt himself from part or all of the responsibilities if unforeseeable, unavoidable and insurmountable objective circumstances occurs. The court or the arbitral tribunal may also weigh the circumstances in their discretion.


我國《合同法》第一百一十七條規定了“不可抗力指的是不能預見、不能避免且不能克服的客觀情況”,該條規定“因不可抗力不能履行合同的,根據不可抗力的影響,部分或者全部免除責任”,《合同法》第九十四條第一項 也賦予了合同當事人因不可抗力導致合同目的不能實現時的法定解除合同的權利。但在依該法條行使解除權時,法院或仲裁庭要綜合考量不可抗力對合同的影響程度,也就是說,只有在不可抗力影響到合同目的實現時,合同當事人才可行使法定解除權,反言之,如果不可抗力未影響到合同目的的實現,則合同當事人并不享有此權利。


Contract Law of PRC defines force majeure as “any objective circumstance which is unforeseeable, unavoidable and insurmountable”, and provides that “a party who was unable to perform a contract due to force majeure is exempted from liability in part or in whole in light of the impact of the event of force majeure”. It also grants a party to “ terminate a contract if force majeure frustrated the purpose of the contract”. However, when a party files to terminate the contract due to force majeure, the court or the arbitration tribunal shall comprehensively consider the extent of the impact of force majeure on the contract: only when the force majeure affects the purpose of the contract, can the party choose to terminate. Otherwise, the parties to the contract do not enjoy the right to terminate.


何為合同目的不能實現?這并非一個點的問題,而是要綜合考量整個面,同時還要兼顧“公平原則”?!胺堑洹睍r期,最高人民法院曾發布《關于在防治傳染性非典型肺炎期間依法做好人民法院相關審判、執行工作的通知》(現已失效),可以參考其中關于“因’非典’疫情原因,按原合同履行對一方當事人的權益有重大影響的合同糾紛案件,可以根據具體情況,適用公平原則處理,因政府及有關部門為防治“非典”疫情而采取行政措施直接導致合同不能履行,或者由于“非典”疫情的影響致使合同當事人根本不能履行而引起的糾紛,按照《中華人民共和國合同法》第一百一十七條和第一百一十八條的規定妥善處理?!敝幎?,這表明法院在“因不可抗力導致合同目的不能實現而行使合同解除權”這個問題上是持有謹慎態度的,此觀點可以參考湖北省高院審理的美國東江旅游集團公司與長江輪船海外旅游總公司租賃合同糾紛上訴案,第(2007)鄂民四終字第47號民事判決書之內容對何為合同目的不能實現以及依公平原則分擔損失都有較細致的敘述。


How come the purpose of the contract is frustrated? The answer is not a single point, but a comprehensive plane with the “principle of fairness” taken into account. Notice on Trial and Enforcement by the People’s Court During SARS (Repealed) promulgated by the Supreme People’s Court of PRC provided that “Contractual disputes where performance in accordance with the original contract will have a significant impact on the rights and interests of one party due to SARS can be resolved on the basis of fairness according to the specific circumstances. If a contract cannot be performed because of administrative measures taken by the government and relevant departments to prevent SARS, or the contracting party cannot perform the contract due to SARS, the disputes arising therefrom shall be properly resolved in accordance with Articles 117 and 118 of Contract Law of the PRC”, showing that Chinese court is cautious on “termination of contract because of force majeure”. This point of view is supported by the judgment of J.PI Travel USA Inc. v. Changjiang Overseas Cruise Travel Co., Ltd., which contains detailed description of how the contract purpose is frustrated and how to attribute the damages in the sprit of fairness.


(二)英美法下,遵守的是“嚴格合同義務”原則,比如1647年“帕拉丁訴簡”(Paradine v. Jane)案判決即使因為意外事件使得合同目的不能實現,合同不得以履行,也不能免除當事人的責任,加之沒有成文法明確規定的不可抗力內容,此功能一般由合同約定的不可抗力條款與合同目的受阻原則來實現,所以形成了不可抗力按契約約定的地位,那么當國際商事合同條款中沒有約定不可抗力,合同的適用法是英美法時,便很難以不可抗力作為免除責任的抗辯理由。王利明的《違約責任論》中提到:“美國學者Berman指出,在交易中無所謂不可預見之事(Nothing is unforeseeable),任何事故都是可由當事人事先約定的,就免責問題而言,應當由當事人訂立合同來解決。如果合同未作規定,則應當由當事人負責。因此,法律規定免責條款都是毫無意義的”。雖然日后因為國際貿易的發展由“泰勒訴考德威爾”開始,慢慢形成了現在的合同目的受阻原則,但這與大陸法下的制度上的不可抗力還是不同的,這是基于“嚴格合同義務”之下的對合同雙方公平的考量。


2. Under common law, contract obligations shall be strictly complied with. For example, “Paradise v. Jane” (1647) ruled that when a party by his own contract creates a duty upon himself is bound to make it good notwithstanding any accident that he could have provided against in the contract. In addition, there is no force majeure in the statutory laws. Non-performance of contract obligations is justified only if there is express force majeure terms in the covenant, and the purpose of the contract is frustrated. Therefore, force majeure is formed according to the contract. When there is no agreement on force majeure in the terms of international commercial contracts and the applicable law of the contract is common law, it is very difficult to invoke force majeure as a defense for liability exemption. Wang Mingli quoted the American scholar Berman in his book On Liability for Breach of Contract that “nothing is unforeseeable, any accident can be agreed by the parties in advance. As far as the issue of exemption is concerned, the parties should conclude a contract to solve it. If there is no such stipulation in the contract, the parties shall be responsible. Therefore, it is meaningless for the law to stipulate the exemption clause.” Although “Taylor v. Caldwell” promotes the development of international trade, and gradually formed the current principle of frustration of contract purpose, which is based on the consideration of the fairness of both parties under the “strict compliance rule”, it is different from force majeure under the civil law.


美國《合同法重述》第二版,規定了合同目的受阻(Frustration  of  Purposes)原則,在請求人沒有過失的前提下,意外事件實質性地阻礙了合同的主要目的實現,那么可以導致合同的解除。不可抗力與合同的受阻還是有一定差別的,不可抗力必須因客觀性導致不能履行,而合同目的受阻包括因主觀性導致發現合同不能履行,即并非絕對不能履行而是繼續履行會偏離合同訂立的目的,且在英美法判例下,法官對合同目的受阻的適用具有嚴格的要求,一般難以實現。


The second edition of Restatement of Contract Law of the United States stipulates the principle of “Frustration of Purposes”: when unexpected events arise which make a contract impossible to be performed, entitling the frustrated to terminate the contract. There are  differences between the force majeure and frustration  of  purposes. Force majeure must be caused by an objective event. However, frustration  of  purposes includes the discovery that the contract cannot be performed due to subjectivity, that is, the continuous performance will deviate from the purpose of the contract. Under case law, it is difficult to invoke frustration  of  purposes because there are strict requirements for the judge to apply this rule.


(三)沒有約定適用法律的,應以沖突法的規范,根據“最密切聯系原則” 確認適用的準據法。在沒有明示排除的情況下,《聯合國國際貨物銷售合同公約》(the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods,以下簡稱 CISG)不同締約國的合同當事人之間(或營業地在締約國或沖突規范指向適用某一締約國法律)的貨物買賣合同也可適用 CISG,該公約第 79 條規定了“障礙”(impediment)這一不可抗力違約免責條款,當然理論界也有觀點認為這是情勢變更原則。


3. If there is no agreement on the applicable law, the applicable law shall be determined by the “most closely related” principle. Without express exclusion, the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG) can be applied for contractual parties from different countries or regions (or a party’s place of business or conflict rules direct the applicable laws to a contractual country). Article 79 of CISG provides “pediment” as force majeure for a party to exempt his contract liabilities. However, some scholars think “pediment” as a “change of circumstances”.


二、鑒于以上基礎理論,建議在簽訂國際商事合同時,明確約定不可抗力條款,并約定合同適用的法律,不同情形下,具體合同約定的內容及注意事項如下:


II.  In view of the above basic theories, it is suggested that when signing an international commercial contract, the force majeure clause and the applicable laws of the contract should be clearly stipulated. Here are some take aways for companies in different situations.


(一)在適用中國法的情況下,雖然法律明確規定了不可抗力,但進出口企業援引不可抗力減免責任時還應注意以下方面。


1. If the contract applies Chinese laws, although it is clearly stipulates the force majeure in the statute, the import and export enterprises shall also pay attention to the following aspects when invoking force majeure as defense of reduce or exempt liability.


1.該不可抗力發生的時間。企業在不可抗力發生之前是否有遲延履行合同的行為,如果因為企業的遲延履行,導致合同的履行遇到不可抗力,那么遲延履行部分不能以不可抗力進行抗辯。


(1) The time of the force majeure. Pay attention to whether a party has delayed the performance before force majeure. If the non-performance delays contract to force majeure, then the delayed performance cannot be exempted by force majeure.


2.合同的不能履行與不可抗力之間有直接的因果關系?;氐轿恼麻_頭提出的問題,貿促會開出的不可抗力證明是對不可抗力發生的事實的證明,并不能以此作為減免責任的依據,企業需要進一步提供證據證明不可抗力的發生直接導致了合同的不能履行。


(2) Causation between the non-performance and the force majeure. Back to the question raised at the beginning of the article, the force majeure certificate issued by the CCPIT is the proof of the fact that the force majeure occurred, which can not be used directly as the basis for relief of liability. The default party needs to provide further evidence to prove that the occurrence of force majeure directly leads to the non-performance of the contract.


3.該不可抗力是否可以克服和避免。不同的地區,疫情發生的程度不同, 政府的限制也不同,如果可以克服和避免的行為,不能援引不可抗力進行抗辯, 比如利用網銀交付預付款的行為。


(3) Unavoidability and insurmountability of the force majeure. Different regions, have different extent of the epidemic and different government restrictions.
If the circumstances can be avoided and surmounted, force majeure can not be invoked to defend non-performance, such as making advance payment by online banking.


4.應及時通知合同的相對方并采取合理措施避免了損失的擴大。


(4) The opposite party of the contract shall be informed in time and reasonable measures shall be taken to mitigate the loss.


5.應在合理期限內搜集保留并提供證據,包括證明疫情客觀存在的證據, 如政府規范性文件、權威媒體報道等。


(5) Evidence should be collected and provided within a reasonable period of time, such as evidence proving the objective existence of the epidemic, government orders, media reports, etc.


(二)在適用英美法的情況下,因其“嚴格義務”的合同原則,進出口企業在簽訂和援引不可抗力條款時要注意以下方面。


2. If the contract applies common law, because of its “strict compliance” rule, import and export companies should pay attention to the following aspects when invoking force majeure:


1.對不可抗力的定義和表述要準確清晰。英美法屬于判例法,沒有成文法下規定的不可抗力,對不可抗力的用詞表述也不同,為了避免引起歧義,應該準確清晰的表述其定義。


(1) The definition of force majeure should be accurate and clear. Common law is case law, there is no written statutes on force majeure, and the expression of force majeure is different. In order to avoid ambiguity, the definition of force majeure should be accurately and clearly stated.


2.在合同中要盡量詳盡的羅列不可抗力事件,比如此次發生的疫情,應在合同中約定“瘟疫及與此類似之事件”,如果沒有約定如上內容,則不得援引其為不可抗力。


(2). The force majeure events shall be listed as detailed as possible in the contract. For example, the coronavirus epidemic occurred this time conform to the “plague and similar events”, which should be stipulated in the contract. If there is no such agreement, it cannot not be used as force majeure.


3.不可抗力發生后應及時通知合同的相對方。此處的通知應該包括通知的時間及內容、通知的回復、如果不回復通知的法律后果等。


(3). Notify the other party in time after the occurrence of force majeure. The notice here should include the time and content of the notice, reply to the notice, and legal consequences if the notice is not replied.


4.約定在不可抗力發生后應提供不可抗力書面證明。此處包括應該在什么期限內提供該證明,證明的內容是什么,如果不能提供該證明的法律后果有哪些。


(4) Agree written proof of force majeure after the occurrence of force majeure, including the time limit within which the certificate should be provided, the content of the certificate, and the legal consequences if the certificate cannot be provided.


5.約定不可抗力發生后該如何處理。


(5) Agree on how to deal with the occurrence of force majeure.


6.約定不可抗力是否屬于免責條款以及免除的責任包括哪些。


(6) Agree whether the force majeure can be used to exempt contract liabilities and what liabilities can be exempted.


7.可以約定替代履約條款。即不可抗力發生后,以哪些行為替代合同約定的義務,如果該可以替代履約條款生效,則不可抗力條款是否作廢。


(7) Alternative performance clauses may be agreed. Parties may agree on alternative acts that replace the original obligations after the occurrence of the force majeure, and the validity of force majeure clause if the Alternative performance clause is effective.


8.約定不可抗力的舉證內容、舉證責任、舉證期限等。


(8) Stipulate the content of proof, burden of proof and time limit of proof for force majeure.


(三)在適用英美法的情況下,如果沒有約定不可抗力條款或者不可抗力條款不詳盡無法援引或者因合同相對方的強勢性不認可不可抗力條款時(比如行業協會的格式條款),應注意以下方面。


3. If the contract applies common law, and the parties do not agree on force majeure or the force majeure clause is not exhaustive and cannot be invoked, or the opposite party of the contract does not recognize the force majeure clause (such as the format clause of the industry association), the following aspects shall be noted.


1.發生不可抗力后應及時通知合同相對方。

2.積極尋求履約的替代方式。

3.不要輕易援引不可抗力內容主張解除合同。

4.盡量與合同相對方協調溝通。

5.簽訂補充條款。


(1) Notify the other party of the contract in time in case of force majeure.
(2) Actively seek alternative ways of performance.
(3) Do not hastily invoke force majeure and terminate the contract.
(4) Communicate with the opposite party.
(5) Sign supplementary contract.


(四)在適用 CISG 的情況下,進出口企業應注意以下方面。


4. If the contract applies CISG, then


1.不可抗力發生的時間。根據 CISG79 條之規定,該“障礙”應“沒有理由預期他在訂立合同時能考慮到或能避免或克服它或它的后果”。


(1). The time of the force majeure. According to Article 79 of CISG, “an impediment could not reasonably be expected to happen at the time of the conclusion of the contract or to have avoided or overcome it or its consequences.”


2.發生不可抗力后要及時通知合同相對方。并確保該通知在合理的期限內被合同相對方收到。


2. In case of force majeure, notify the other party in time. And ensure that the notice is received by the other party within a reasonable period of time.


3.援引因“第三方”所致,使合同無法履行時,“第三方”受嚴格的限制。該“第三方”并非字面意思上的所有第三方,必須是其“所雇用履行合同的全部或一部分規定的”,也并不是單純指其上下游,比如根據 secretariat Commentary, 原料供應商不屬于此處的“第三方”的范疇。


(3) If the non-performance is attributed to a “third party”, the definition of “third party” is strictly limited. It does not mean all the third parties literally. For example, the raw material supplier is not a “third party” here.


4.及時與合同相對方溝通,尋求替代解決辦法,防止損失擴大。


(4) Communicate with the opposite party timely to find alternative solutions to mitigate the losses.


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