The UCP 600 (“Uniform Customs & Practice for Documentary Credits”) is the official publication which is issued by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). It is a set of 39 articles on issuing and using Letters of Credit, which applies to 175 countries around the world, constituting some $1tn USD of trade per year.
The Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits is a set of rules on the issuance and use of letters of credit. The UCP is utilized by bankers and commercial parties in more than 175 countries in trade finance.
The Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits (UCP) is a set of rules on the issuance and use of letters of credit. The UCP is utilized by bankers and commercial parties in more than 175 countries in trade finance. Some 11-15% of international trade utilizes letters of credit, totaling over a trillion dollars (US) each year.
Historically, the commercial parties, particularly banks, have developed the techniques and methods for handling letters of credit in international trade finance. This practice has been standardized by the ICC (International Chamber of Commerce) by publishing the UCP in 1933 and subsequently updating it throughout the years.
The ICC has developed and moulded the UCP by regular revisions, the current version being the UCP600. The result is the most successful international attempt at unifying rules ever, as the UCP has a substantially universal effect. The latest revision was approved by the Banking Commission of the ICC at its meeting in Paris on 25 October 2006. This latest version, called the UCP600, formally commenced on 1 July 2007
A significant function of the ICC is the preparation and promotion of its uniform rules of practice. The ICC's aim is to provide a codification of international practice occasionally selecting the best practice after ample debate and consideration. The ICC rules of practice are designed by bankers and merchants and not by legislatures with political and local considerations. The rules accordingly demonstrate the needs, customs and practices of business. Because the rules are incorporated voluntarily into contracts, the rules are flexible while providing a stable base for international review, including judicial scrutiny.
International revision is thus facilitated permitting the incorporation of the changing practices of the commercial parties. ICC, which was established in 1919, had as its primary objective facilitating the flow of international trade at a time when nationalism and protectionism threatened the easing of world trade. It was in that spirit that the UCP were first introduced – to alleviate the confusion caused by individual countries’ promoting their own national rules on a letter of credit practice.
The aim was to create a set of contractual rules that would establish uniformity in practice so that there would be less need to cope with often conflicting national regulations. The universal acceptance of the UCP by practitioners in countries with widely divergent economic and judicial systems is a testament to the rules’ success.
The latest (July 2007) revision of UCP is the sixth revision of the rules since they were first promulgated in 1933. It is the outcome of more than three years of work by the ICC's Commission on Banking Technique and Practice.
The UCP remain the most successful set of private rules for trade ever developed. A range of individuals and groups contributed to the current revision including: the UCP Drafting Group, which waded through more than 5000 individual comments before arriving at this final text; the UCP Consulting Group, consisting of members from more than 25 countries, which served as the advisory body; the more than 400 members of the ICC Commission on Banking Technique and Practice who made pertinent suggestions for changes in the text; and 130 ICC National Committees worldwide which took an active role in consolidating comments from their members.