Singapore arbitration centre opens New York office, achieves record caseload

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam noted at the virtual launch of the New York office that one of the biggest users of the SIAC are parties from the US. PHOTO: SIAC

SINGAPORE - The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) opened a representative office for the Americas in New York last week, with a record-breaking announcement that its 2020 caseload had crossed the 1,000 mark.

It registered 1,005 cases for the first 10 months of this year, which is more than double the annual caseload of 400 in each of the last few years.

The new office, its fifth outside Singapore, will also further bolster its reputation as an international arbitration institution that will have a global reach, lawyers told The Straits Times on Friday (Dec 11 ).

Law and Home Affairs Minister K. Shanmugam said as much at the virtual launch of the New York office when he noted that one of the biggest users of the SIAC are parties from the United States (US).

The largest number of cases in 2018 came from US parties, he said, pointing out that they have consistently been one of SIAC's top 10 foreign users in the last five years.

"It has been SIAC's intention for some time now to open an office in the US. There is significant demand, as seen from the caseload breakdown since 2014. US direct investments in the Asia-Pacific exceed US$800 billion (S$1 billion) and that is expected to grow further."

He also said that "in this part of the world, arbitration has become an extremely important means of resolving disputes which may arise from investments.

"If you look around Asia, I think most people would agree SIAC is considered the top arbitral institution."

SIAC's four offices in Asia are located in India (which has two offices), South Korea and China.

The SIAC, viewed as a crown jewel in Singapore's legal landscape, is led by Senior Counsel Davinder Singh, who is chairman of the SIAC board of directors, and Mr Gary Born, president of the SIAC Court of Arbitration.

SIAC counsel Adriana Uson will head the New York office, which will serve as a springboard to foster deeper ties with users in the Americas, who will benefit from real-time access to SIAC.

Mr Born said the US was picked for its first office outside Asia as American users have found SIAC arbitration conducive to the resolution of their business disputes.

"This year more than 500 US parties already have arbitrated their disputes under the SIAC arbitration rules. We look forward to working with our colleagues in the US and Latin America," he added.

Mr Singh said the choice of New York is an acknowledgement that the Americas will be shaping much of the future of international arbitration. "The opening of our New York office is our way of showing our many friends and supporters in the Americas that they matter to us."

SIAC chief executive officer Lim Seok Hui said the opening of the office, coupled with the crossing of the symbolic 1,000-case threshold and a record number of US parties at SIAC, "will firmly motivate us to do better".

Industry players say the New York office underscored SIAC's continuing prominence as an international arbitration institution with a global reach. It is no longer a national institution serving a limited, regional market, they added.

"The New York openingis in line with SIAC's remarkable landmark in recording over 1,000 cases this year and potentially overtaking other premier international arbitration institutions," said Mr Chou Sean Yu, WongPartnership's head of litigation and dispute resolution.

"This record is another testament to the growth of Singapore as a dispute resolution hub, which has come about from the tremendous investment made by the Government and various stakeholders in the legal industry," he added.

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