Group set up to raise Singapore's profile as international hub for dispute resolution

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam speaking at the ICC Asia Conference on International Arbitration on June 26, 2019.
Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam speaking at the ICC Asia Conference on International Arbitration on June 26, 2019.PHOTO: MINISTRY OF LAW

SINGAPORE - A new group to promote the Singapore business community's interests through the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has been set up, in a move that is expected to raise Singapore's profile as a hub for international arbitration and dispute resolution.

Called the ICC Singapore Arbitration Group, it will be chaired by Ms Smitha Rajan Menon, who is a partner at WongPartnership and the Singapore representative to the ICC International Court of Arbitration.

Mr Andrew Yeo, a partner at Allen & Gledhill, will be the vice-chair.

The group will also feature a core committee that will set the agenda and drive its activities, as well as a Selection Committee of Arbitrators that will nominate arbitrators for ICC arbitration cases that are referred to ICC Singapore.

Members of the group will include Singaporean and foreign arbitration practitioners who are either based here or overseas, as well as academics and corporate counsels.

This was announced by the ICC International Court of Arbitration's president, Mr Alexis Mourre, and its secretary-general, Mr Alexander Fessas, on Wednesday (June 26) during the ICC Asia Conference on International Arbitration.

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said in his keynote speech at the one-day conference that 2019 will be "a year of inflexion" for Singapore's dispute resolution landscape.

He highlighted several key initiatives this year that will further push the Republic's status as a key dispute resolution hub in the region.

These include hosting the signing of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, which will be named the Singapore Convention on Mediation, on Aug 7.

Mr Shanmugam noted that the convention fills a "missing piece" in the international dispute resolution enforcement framework, which currently includes the New York Convention for arbitration as well as the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements.

"We see it as a significant development in the international commercial mediation globally. It will enhance the cross-border enforceability of mediated settlement agreements, and businesses will benefit with greater certainty and assurance," he said at the conference, which was attended by more than 200 arbitration and dispute resolution experts from 23 countries, at Sofitel Singapore City Centre.

 
 

The opening of Maxwell Chambers Suites on Aug 8 will also serve to meet the growing demand for dispute resolution services in Asia, added Mr Shanmugam.

After two years of refurbishment works, which have tripled the original size of the dispute resolution complex at the former Traffic Police headquarters in Maxwell Road, the complex will house at least 11 international institutions as well as 20 disputes chambers and practices from 11 countries.

Among the 11 institutions, five including the ICC will have their case management offices at Maxwell Chambers Suites - the highest concentration of case management offices in the world.

Since it was set up in Singapore in April last year, the ICC Arbitration Case Management Office has handled 100 cases.

The Singapore Business Federation's chief executive officer, Mr Ho Meng Kit, said in a statement that the formation of the ICC Singapore Arbitration Group will further boost arbitration here.

"It is our hope that with the establishment of this group, we can contribute to Singapore's efforts to bolster our position as an international hub for commercial dispute resolution," he said.

Separately, a public consultation was also launched by the Ministry of Law on Wednesday to look at views on proposals to amend the International Arbitration Act.

The proposed amendments to the Act include the default appointment of arbitrators in multi-party situations and to allow parties, by mutual agreement, to request the arbitrator(s) to decide on jurisdiction at the preliminary award stage, among other things.

The consultation period will end on Aug 21.