How significant is the concept of party autonomy for commercial activity in the globalised economy? How have European and U.S. approaches to the issues surrounding party autonomy differed in the past and why have they been converging in recent years? Support your answers with reasons and evidence wherever possible.

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Although party autonomy has its origin going back to 16th century, [1] this is a cutting edge doctrine addressed by most of the international commercial treaties nowadays. In essence, the theory enables the parties to a contract to choose the legislation that will govern their agreement.

International treaties as Rome Convention, and currently Rome I Regulation, as well as national laws like the Restatement (Second) and Uniform Commercial Code, strengthen the party autonomy by removing divergences in legal systems and supporting the freedom of choice through their rules,[2]which puts commercial trading at ease.

In the current world model, business participants expect certainty and predictability from their agreements, and nothing better than meeting their expectations by providing them the power to choose the applicable rules. Hence, party autonomy ensures to the parties of a contract the chance to foresee the deployment of their commercial transactions as well as the knowledge of the possible legal consequences of their acts. In doing so, this traditional doctrine shows its importance in fostering nowadays cross-border economy.

Today, party autonomy is guaranteed on both sides of the Atlantic by Rome I, Restatement (Second) § 187 and Uniform Commercial Code § 1-105. However, in the past century European and American choice-of-law doctrine were not in full accordance.

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In Europe, there was a conception that the parties could not disregard the lex loci contractus and choose their own rules when entering into contract, but this trend did not resist the increasing of international trading, which required the appliance of a common set of rules.[3] On the American side, the judiciary supported the party autonomy,[4] while part of the doctrine leaded by Joseph Beale held that the choice of law was a matter of sovereignty beyond parties’ choice.[5]However, throughout the time the mentality was changing and currently, although not binding, the theory is broadly applied.

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