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Foreword of the 1st edition (1999)

The initial idea to create this Website on "World Legal Systems" stems from a particular interest: the fact that both Civil law and Common law are taught at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa. The Faculty, through its National Program, further offers its students the possibility of taking a degree in both legal systems within a four-year time period, thereby improving their employment prospects. Thus it seemed desirable to afford them, through this Website, a true perspective of the importance of each of these two legal systems on an international level.

However, in setting up this Website, we were also guided by an interest of a more general nature. Indeed, after 50 years of world trade liberalization brought about through GATT and the WTO, tariff reductions - from 50% to 3% in industrialized countries - have been instrumental in achieving a thirteen-fold increase in the volume of trade worldwide. In Canada, for example, 43% of economic activity today is directly related to exports, compared to only 18% twenty years ago. One job in three now depends on exports and it is estimated that, for each billion dollars in new exports, 6,000 to 8,000 jobs are created in this country.

In the light of this new context, we thought it would be helpful to provide the legal community and business people with a modern tool that would give them an idea of the legal system in force in the various countries in which they might be conducting business and entering into international commercial agreements.

Certainly the creation of such a tool posed quite a challenge, such as determining the criteria for classifying the different legal systems when faced with a large number of mixed legal systems, or ascertaining the status of the law in countries undergoing a complete transformation, particularly in Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa. However, it is becoming increasingly difficult to function without such a guide in the context of globalization. Thus, fully aware of the pitfalls and hence in all modesty, we nevertheless decided to take up the challenge. We hope the results, imperfect though they may be, have achieved the intended purpose. Since we expect to improve this instrument over time, we have included a "Discussion Forum" page on our Website in order to receive comments, criticism and suggestions from the academic world and users at large.

This Website was created at the Law Faculty of the University of Ottawa by Mr. Nicola Mariani (LL.L./LL.B. Ottawa) and Ms. Graciela Fuentes (LL.M. McGill, LL.D. Ottawa) under the guidance of Professor Alain-F. Bisson and Dean Louis Perret. We would like to express our gratitude for their assistance and dedication to Ms. Nathalie Lalonde of the Supreme Court of Canada Library, Ms. Marie-Claude Lavigne, computer consultant, Ms. Sylvie Leblanc and Mr. Serge Brousseau for their technical support, and Ms. Diana-Lynn Swan of the University of Ottawa Law Library, not to forget our translators Mr. Ken Larose and Ms. Gail Larose, whose patience and thoroughness we hereby acknowledge.

We would also like to express our particular thanks to Mr. Hacen Ould Lebatt, former dean of the Law Faculty of the University of Nouakchott and former rector of the same university, whose assistance has proved invaluable with respect to the classification of African and Middle Eastern legal systems, and Ms. Josée Tremblay for information provided with respect to certain South-East Asian countries. However, needless to say, we are solely responsible for any error of interpretation of the information provided to us by them.
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Last updated: 2009.12.15