Controversial reforms of France’s law of contracts will help the country export its jurisdiction as a forum of choice for commercial disputes, an official at the Ministry of Justice in Paris said last week.

Guillaume Meunier, deputy director department of civil law, said that the reform of laws dating from 1804 would make the law ‘easy to translate and thus to export’.

An English translation of the new law, which is due to be enacted by February, has already been posted on the ministry’s website.

Meunier was speaking at a conference at the University of Westminister in London organised to discuss the new law. Publication of a draft earlier this year caused consternation among businesses, who claimed that it would give judges a licence to rewrite contracts after any change in circumstances.

They also raised concerns over its introduction through an administrative ordnance rather than parliamentary debate.

However Meunier said that a definitive draft delivered to the Council of State last month had taken concerns on board and that ‘judges will apply the provisions with wisdom’.

Catherine Pedamon, deputy head of international commercial law at the University of Westminster, said the reform would strike a balance between the freedom to contract and contractual justice. A provision allowing judges to strike out ‘abusive’ clauses has been narrowed down and the law had no retroactive effect. ‘No one should be scared,’ she said.

French judge Michaël Haravon told the meeting that he did not expect to rewrite contracts. Businesses should have only one concern: ‘Ensuring that what they call a contract is indeed a contract.’