Whilst the letter of credit has been the dominant force in the trade-finance area, its utility has increasingly been challenged by technology, regulation, and competition from other financial products. Additionally, there are some circumstances where economic, political, or financial instability makes the letter of credit inapt. This is because the letter of credit requires a certain level of financial stability and an appropriate institutional framework to function properly. In such circumstances, the parties may resort to trade finance mechanisms that can withstand such instability. The prime example is countertrade, whereby goods or services are used to ‘pay’ for goods or services. Whilst this form of transacting is not without its legal difficulties, countertrade may provide a useful trade-finance device in times of crisis, such as the global coronavirus pandemic.
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