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Legal databank for foreign trade.


A new legal database set up by ITC can provide information on foreign trade laws and regulations of interest to exporters in developing countries.

Knowing the laws and regulations applicable in foreign markets is often an obstacle for small and medium-size exporters with limited staff and financial resources, given the diversity and volume of such legal material. To provide information of this type to the business community in developing countries, ITC has started a new service called "Juris." Juris is based on a computerized databank that covers foreign trade legislation and other legal measures in developed as well as developing countries. Its focus on the European market is of particular interest in the light of developments concerning the unified market of the European Community at the end of 1992. The new service should be a useful tool for export managers and trade promotion officials requiring specific legal information on selected import markets.

Information available

The new database contains abstracts from legal documents, trade laws, trade regulations, commercial treaties and articles on legal topics. References to the original sources are provided for all information items for follow-up purposes. In the near future information on jurisprudence, consisting of decisions on international commercial law cases, will be covered as well.

The legal texts in the database relate primarily to European markets and to developing countries that have provided information for the new service:

1. In the case of European markets, Juris is a tool through which specific legal databases of the European Community (EC) can be consulted. It also includes abstracts of some EC legislative acts affecting international trade, legislative and regulatory instruments adopted by members of the Community to comply with EC legislation, trade legislation and regulations adopted by members of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), and trade laws and regulations of EFTA countries. (Laws and regulations concerning East European markets are planned to the added later.) Also contained in the database are some short descriptions of international conventions and treaties to which European states adhere.

2. Information on the individual developing countries includes legislation on foreign investment, foreign exchange regulations, company law, legislation on commercial representation, tax law, regulations on dispute settlement and commercial treaties.

Sources of the Data

Information in the Juris service on the European market is obtained through existing legal databases and also new databases being set up in ITC on the basis of primary documentation. The existing databases linked to Juris include "SCAD" of the Commission of the European Communities, covering EC documentation, and "CELEX," also of the Commission, related specifically to Community law.

The legal information on the markets of developing countries is being provided by specialists in those countries. A standard format has been developed for the provision of this data on computer diskette so that it can easily be transmitted to participants in the service. To date nearly a dozen developing countries are participating in the project, and more are expected to join. Examples of institutions and organizations in these countries that are providing information for the database are chambers of commerce, ministries of trade, national trade promotion organizations and lawyers' associations.

Form in which available

The legal information in Juris is available both in printed form and on computer diskette. A special computer programme has been developed for using the diskettes. Direct computer link-ups with the Juris database are planned for the near future.

Texts in the database are in English, French or Spanish.


An example of a printout from the Juris service is given in the box at right. The printout concerns a directive of the European Community on the marketing of products resembling foodstuffs. The printout gives the source of the information, the date the directive came into force and a summary of the contents, among other details.

Using the service

Officials of small and medium-size enterprises, chambers of commerce, other trade-related organizations, ministries and universities in developing countries may contact ITC for specific information available through Juris.

The principal subjects on which information is required should be clearly specified. The keywords used for retrieving data cover the general categories of products, functions, international economic institutions, countries and regional markets.

A few examples of the functional terms are banks, bonded warehouses, contracts, foreign trade regulations, free zones, investment regulations, joint ventures, packaging, patents, payment regulations, quality standards, samples, storage, subcontracting, tariff preferences, trade missions, trade practices, trademarks, transport documents and wholesale trade. The listing totals nearly 200 different search words.

Developing countries are asked to provide basic legal data on their own foreign trade systems in exchange for information requested from Juris, if possible.

Pierre Nicora is ITC's adviser on the legal aspects of foreign trades.
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Author:Nicora, Pierre
Publication:International Trade Forum
Date:Oct 1, 1990
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