Few traders and brokers realize that the Letter of Intent is not a standard document in International Trade. When "LOI" is used, it actually refers to the Letter of Indemnity. This is standard usage of the term and has been for decades. The Letter of Intent (hereafter referred to as LOI) is often used in specific domestic trades, such as in real estate or corporate mergers, but it has no standard usage in International Trade itself.
This position expressed by one representative of a seller, a Swedish_based broker, in a recent exchange with this writer's office regarding the seller's offer wherein the prospective buyer's mandate resisted the broker's insistence that the prospective buyer must first sign an LOI, pretty much sums up the traditional rationale offered by sellers and/or their agents for having an LOI: