More than 70 eminent local and foreign arbitration practitioners gathered at Maxwell Chambers on 1 November 2011 to discuss Singapore’s arbitration landscape and its development at the Ministry of Law’s (MinLaw) Arbitration Dialogue 2011.
The event was graced by the Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam, who highlighted Singapore’s progress towards becoming a leading international arbitration hub, and MinLaw’s plans to strengthen this status.
The opening dialogue session, chaired by the Attorney-General, Mr Sundaresh Menon SC, and panellists including Mr Michael Ashcroft QC of 20 Essex Street and Mr John Savage from King and Spalding, looked at MinLaw’s proposed amendments to the Singapore International Arbitration Act. The Act was put out for public consultation on 21 October 2011.
There was a high quality discussion, with various arbitration practitioners and academics voicing their views on the proposed changes. Panellists and participants were generally supportive of the proposed amendments and felt that they would be beneficial to and further modernise Singapore’s legal framework for arbitration, although a few concerns were raised. The Ministry will be considering these views and feedback in finalising the Bill. There was particular interest in the new provisions of supporting the appointment of emergency arbitrators, and allowing parties to appeal to court against a tribunal’s finding that it has no jurisdiction to hear a dispute.
Representatives from the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), Singapore Chamber of Maritime Association (SCMA), Maxwell Chambers, Singapore Institute of Arbitrators (SiArb) and the Economic Development Board (EDB) gave positive updates on Singapore’s growing arbitration landscape. Justice Quentin Loh also spoke about the courts’ role in developing a greater spirit of internationalism in arbitration cases by considering foreign and international sources of law, particularly civil law concepts. Participants also discussed how Singapore’s alternative dispute resolution (ADR) system could be strengthened by developing other forms of ADR, such as mediation, in tandem with arbitration. The programme for the dialogue is in the Annex.
Singapore has, in the past few years, made progress in building herself up as a centre for arbitration activity. A White & Case survey in 2010 noted that Singapore “has made a mark on the arbitration landscape” and “clearly emerges as the most popular Asian seat”. Key to this has been Singapore’s track record in enforcing agreements to arbitrate and enforcing arbitral awards, as well as its strong neutrality and impartiality. The survey also ranked Singapore third among the arbitration seats most preferred by corporations (together with Paris and Tokyo, and after the established seats of London and Geneva).
The Arbitration Dialogue 2011 is another milestone in MinLaw’s ongoing efforts to engage key stakeholders within the arbitration community and to provide a platform for the industry to network and contribute their views to further the development of Singapore as a legal services and international dispute resolution hub.
The public consultation on the International Arbitration Act will close on 21 November 2011.