The road to broader engagement

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Chinese arbitration has its own development track. Riding high on the goals and undertakings of making home-grown arbitration practices more international, the country also charts its course of introducing “China’s experience” and “Oriental wisdom” onto the international arbitration stage. We asked the region’s major player for their views − and their wisdom. Read the full interview with the leaders of six arbitration centres here.

On 7 august 2019, 46 members of the UN signed the Singapore Convention on Mediation (Singapore Convention). The Singapore Convention is a treaty that seeks to increase the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements across countries. It is named after the city that hosted the signing ceremony, and whose delegates played a key role in the negotiations and drafting of the treaty.

Arbitration
Lim Seok Hui

As of 14 October 2019, Singapore, China and 49 other countries had signed the Singapore Convention. By improving the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements across countries, the Singapore Convention will encourage parties involved in cross-border projects and transactions to use mediation as a time and cost-efficient process as part of their dispute resolution toolkit.

Arbitration and mediation are complementary forms of alternative dispute resolution that give parties greater flexibility for the efficient, expert and enforceable resolution of their international disputes. Recognizing this, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) introduced the SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb Protocol in 2014 to allow parties to formally consider mediation as part of their dispute resolution process. In the event that parties are able to settle their dispute, the mediated settlement agreement can be recorded as a consent award to benefit from the New York Convention for arbitration.

The signing of the Singapore Convention is a strong starting point towards increasing the enforceability of mediated settlement agreements across countries. As with the 1958 New York Convention for arbitration, the ratification process by states may take some time. The SIAC will therefore continue to work with the SIMC to jointly promote the SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb Protocol to support this process. These initiatives will further cement Singapore’s status as a leading dispute resolution hub.

Following China’s State Council announcement to allow internationally renowned commercial dispute resolution institutions to establish a formal presence in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone (FTZ), back in April 2015, the SIAC lost no time in setting up its representative office in the Shanghai FTZ, in March 2016.

Chinese parties are a valued top foreign user of the SIAC, which seeks to deepen and broaden engagement with key stakeholders in the Chinese arbitration community through the following measures:

  • In 2018 and 2019, the SIAC signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration, Xi’an Arbitration Commission, China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (SHIAC), and Beijing International Arbitration Centre (BAC) to promote international arbitration as a preferred method of dispute resolution for resolving international disputes in China, in order to better support the needs of companies, businesses and investors in Belt and Road projects all over the world.
  • In 2018 and 2019, the SIAC signed MOUs with Peking University (PKU) law school and the East China University of Political Science and Law to offer internships to law students from these universities. Pursuant to these MOUs, the law schools and the SIAC will also explore the incorporation of the “SIAC and institutional arbitration” module into the law programmes of these universities. These partnerships will, it is hoped, enable the SIAC to play a role in nurturing and developing future generations of China’s international arbitration experts.
  • The SIAC Academy, “Time and Cost Savers at SIAC: Emergency Arbitration, Expedited Procedure and Early Dismissal”, was held in Beijing in October 2018 at PKU law school. We are planning to hold the SIAC Academy in other Chinese cities.
  • Through the SIAC’s representative office in Shanghai, we work closely with PRC arbitration commissions, law firms, in-house counsel organizations, bar associations and industry associations to promote international arbitration by conducting training programmes and workshops all over China.

The SIAC’s people offer the twin advantages of language and cultural fluency. The SIAC’s board of directors, Court of Arbitration and panel of arbitrators include many eminent Chinese arbitration experts and leading Singaporean practitioners who are fluent in Chinese. The SIAC secretariat has PRC counsel and Singaporean counsel who are fluent Chinese speakers.

Through its various partnerships and initiatives, the SIAC will continue to enhance and innovate its services to ensure that it is well-positioned at all times to support the commercial needs of Chinese companies, businesses and investors in Belt and Road projects around the world.

Lim Seok Hui,the CEO of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre