Global Governance of Letters of Credit and the UCP600

By: Slava Vernidub, Express Trade Capital

Every year, trade transactions exceeding US$2 trillion are conducted under UCP600, totaling some 11% of all import/export transactions.­­1 The primary goal of the UCP600 is to ease cross-border trade by providing global uniform rules regulating the issuance and usage of letters of credit (“LCs”).

To date, the UCP (“Uniform Customs and Practice for Documentary Credits”) rules are adopted in 175 countries. UCP rules are issued by the International Chamber of Commerce’s (ICC) commission on Banking Technique and Practice.  It is important to note that the ICC is a private international organization of industry experts, not a governmental body. The UCP600 is arguably the most widely accepted set of private rules for international trade ever developed.

How is UCP600 different from previous UCP publications?

Since the UCP was first established in 1933, it underwent several revisions, each reflecting the evolution of trade finance practices across banking, insurance, and transport industries. The objective was to create a set of internationally uniform rules to remove confusion caused by individual countries promoting disparate laws and practices governing the use of letters of credit. By guiding banks and other players engaged in global trade, the UCP enables greater trust between multinational actors and drastically increases the reliability, frequency and efficiency of international trade transactions. As of today, the UCP600 is the latest published revision issued on July 1, 2007 and includes 39 Articles.

In contrast to previous UCP publications, UCP600 not only lays out guidelines, but also includes definitions (Article 2) and interpretations (Article 3) on how to apply certain provisions of the code. By providing clear, defined terms and information specifying the role of banks in letters of credit, UCP600 removes ambiguity and provides a more concise and precise set of regulations to govern LCs. As a result, compared to transactions governed by previous versions of the UCP, transactions conducted under UCP600 are more streamlined, less risky and require fewer amendments.

Aiming to adapt the evolving practice of submitting electronic documents under letters of credit, UCP600 introduced the eUCP which has 12 articles. The goal of the eUCP is to ‘accommodate presentation of electronic records alone or in combination with paper documents’.2 However, for a letter of credit to be subject to eUCP, it must explicitly indicate so in the instrument. Letters of credit subject to eUCP are also subject to UCP600 even if this is not explicitly stated in the letter of credit. If there is a conflict, eUCP will prevail in situations where it will produce a different result from UCP.

How is UCP600 beneficial for trade transactions?

1. UCP600 levels the playing field by creating one set of operating rules for all international parties. This makes trade more inclusive because it allows SMEs to participate in international markets and integrate global supply chains.  SMEs can now rely on banks and counterparties to follow the UCP600 rather than relying on their network, market position, banking relationships and ability to exercise legal muscle, to hold sway over their trade partners when disputes arise.

2. UCP600 resolves disagreements without court intervention, providing more fair, cost-effective, and efficient global trade transactions. Banks and other LC issuing institutions can perform better as neutral third parties to decide issues that are resolved by the language of UCP600 rather than deferring and referring issues for resolution to courts for fear of incurring liability.

3. UCP600 clearly identifies the roles of parties involved and their responsibilities, reducing risk and increasing transparency and therefore speed for exporters and importers who otherwise would have no recourse beyond suing their trade partners and corresponding banks in courts of foreign jurisdiction.

4. A notable feature of UCP600 is the irrevocable nature of the letter of credit. An irrevocable letter of credit cannot be revoked by the issuing bank or at the request of the letter of credit applicant. It assures the parties involved that the guarantee offered by an LC cannot be rescinded once issued unless all parties mutually agree to cancel it. An LC is irrevocable by default, even if not explicitly stated.

For a letter of credit to adhere to UCP600, it must specify so (unless it states that it is subject to the eUCP in which case, both apply). This ensures that all parties involved understand how their performance under the instrument will be governed. If a transaction requires, certain parts of the UCP600 can be omitted but such exceptions must be specifically and unambiguously written into the LC.

If you would like to find out more about LCs, the UCP600 and how it could benefit your trade transactions, reach out to A comprehensive understanding of UCP600 will help both small and large businesses mitigate risks and conquer new international markets.

To make sure your LCs are issued under UCP600, reach out to us. We issue LCs, SBLCs, BGs, RWAs, and Proof of Funds. Contact us to understand which instrument is best suited for your business needs.


1. Collyer, Gary. Guide to Documentary Credits. The London Institute of Banking & Finance, 2017

2. International Chamber of Commerce. Supplement to the Uniform Customs and Practices for Documentary Credits for Electronic Presentations (eUCP), 2007

International Chamber of Commerce. Uniform Customs and Practices for Documentary Credits, Publication 600 (UCP600), 2007

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