New global arbitration office to open in next 6 months to meet demand for dispute resolution

A new office to serve the dispute resolution needs of states and businesses in Asia will be housed in the Maxwell Chambers.
A new office to serve the dispute resolution needs of states and businesses in Asia will be housed in the Maxwell Chambers. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A new office to serve the dispute resolution needs of states and businesses in Asia will soon be set up here - the latest in a series of recent developments in international arbitration.

This office, to be housed in the Maxwell Chambers within the next six months, will be the Permanent Court of Arbitration's (PCA) first one in Asia.

It will allow the PCA to administer the growing number of its cases being heard in the region, said the PCA and the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) in a joint statement on Tuesday (July 25).

While there were four such cases in 2015, there will be at least seven that have or will be heard in Singapore this year. 

On Tuesday, Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah and secretary-general of PCA Hugo H. Siblesz signed an agreement to set up the new office.

Also present at the signing were Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon and Attorney-General Lucien Wong.

Chief Justice Menon and Ambassador-at-Large Tommy Koh are among Singapore's nominated representatives to the PCA's panel of independent arbitrators, said Ms Indranee in a speech at the event.

She noted that Singapore itself has been a "client" of the PCA's dispute resolution services twice: once in 2003 involving Singapore's dispute with Malaysia over land reclamation activities in the Strait of Johor, and another in 2012, involving development charges on former Malayan Railway land.

The new Host Country Agreement is a "step up" from an existing agreement signed a decade ago, added MinLaw and PCA.

Under the existing agreement, the PCA could hold dispute resolution hearings here on an ad hoc basis, without a staffed office, meaning affected parties could settle disputes in Singapore instead of travelling to The Hague in the Netherlands.     

Mr Siblesz said during the signing that the new agreement "opens a new door to expanded cooperation" for both parties.

The PCA's new office - the second outside its Hague headquarters - will move to the new Maxwell Chambers Suites in 2019 when the complex is completed. There, it will be housed alongside other international dispute resolution institutions.

These include the Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC Court).

The new agreement will "further augment Singapore's position as an international hub for dispute resolution, and particularly in the new area of investment dispute resolution", said Ms Indranee. It is the latest in a series of such developments.

In June, it was announced that a new case management office - allowing international arbitration cases to be handled here - will start operations in the first quarter of next year at Maxwell Chambers. Set up by the ICC Court, it will be the first such office set up here by an international arbitration institution.

Earlier in the year, legislation was amended allowing third-party funding in international commercial arbitration in Singapore, offering businesses an additional financing and risk management tool.