For half a century at least, the several states of the United States have taken a liberal attitude toward the recognition and enforcement of foreign country money judgments. The U.S. Supreme Court invoked the “grace” of sovereign nations to justify a restrictive approach to the recognition of judgments in the famous case of Hilton v. Guyot. The New York Court of Appeals laid out a more generous approach based in the vindication of private rights. Simply put, private rights won. In 1962, the Uniform Law Commission promulgated the Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act, which codified a liberal approach to the cross-border circulation of money judgments. The many U.S. states that adopted the uniform act were trying to lead by example. The hope was that, if they accepted incoming judgments, judgments exported to the rest of the world would be accepted, recognized, and enforced. For decades, this effort was regarded as a failure. The European Union continued to draw a sharp distinction between E.U. judgments and U.S. judgments—though acceptance of U.S. judgments by E.U. member states crept up over time. Some of the world’s largest economies—most notably, China—outright rejected recognition of U.S. money judgments.
Change has been recent and dramatic. In 2017, a Chinese court recognized and enforced a U.S. money judgement for the first time. Chinese law requires reciprocity between nations in order to recognize a foreign money judgment. The United States has no reciprocal judgment recognition treaty with any country. A U.S. district court recognized and enforced a Chinese judgment in 2009. This “reciprocity in fact” was sufficient for a Chinese court. A few months later, China announced that it would sign The Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (“COCA”), obligating Chinese courts to recognize and enforce judgments rendered under a choice of court clause selecting the courts of any contracting state. The COCA has already entered into force between the European Union, Mexico, and Singapore. The United States has signed, but not ratified, the agreement. Meanwhile, The Hague Judgments Project gathers steam to require the free circulation of judgments arising in all but a few contexts. The drivers of this apparent convergence are obscure and likely diverse. This Article will analyze the causes of this recent, dramatic shift and will attempt to assess the likelihood of further convergence.