Signing of the Singapore Convention

Cost savings for companies prompt many states to ink Singapore Convention

Law and Home Affairs Minister K Shanmugam shakes the hand of UN Assistant Secretary-General for Legal Affairs Stephen Mathias before the signing ceremony on Aug 7, 2019. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Many of the 46 countries that signed the Singapore Convention have done so for a simple reason: It will cut costs for their companies that are embroiled in business disputes.

Delegates also told The Straits Times they hoped the convention would spur more use of mediation as a dispute resolution alternative.

"Instead of going through painstaking fights within the legal courts, it's going to really save us money, save us time and save resources," said Ambassador Ramon Custodio, director-general for investment promotion at the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Honduras.

"This means we can put those resources in some other area so that we can develop our country and some day we will have a very developed country as you have in Singapore," he added, noting that Honduras was one of the first countries to ink the convention as it backed mediation over "commercial controversy".

United States Charge d'Affaires A.I. Rafik Mansour said: "We heard from our business community that ensuring the enforcement and recognition of mediated settlement agreements will make it easier for companies to reach settlements and avoid costly litigation or arbitration where it is not needed."

Beijing-based law firm partner Arthur Dong added that the convention will benefit China in giving certainty to businesses that mediated agreements can be enforced. "It will also discourage parties from reneging on their settlement agreements, because if they go back on their word, they may be compelled to comply by the courts."

Malaysian participant, Ms Han Li Meng, said her country's backing for the convention would spur the use of mediation, which "has not really taken off yet".

Senior advocate Sriram Panchu from India said the convention helps create confidence to invest in a country that is a signatory to the pact.

Singapore also came in for praise for its role in making the United Nations treaty a reality.

Among others, Mr Tim Schnabel, a former attorney at the US State Department, said the Republic had not just raised awareness of the convention but also helped push along the negotiations.

He singled out Ms Natalie Morris-Sharma in the chair for her "masterful leadership".

Malaysian participant, Ms Rubini Murugesan, was similarly effusive. "Singapore played a pivotal role over three years of negotiations and earned the right to get the convention named after it," she said.

There were several panel discussions at yesterday's event, including one on multilateralism and international collaboration, which was moderated by veteran diplomat Tommy Koh. The speakers included Judge Xue Hanqin, vice-president of the International Court of Justice; former Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa; and Temasek International CEO Dilhan Pillay Sandrasegara.

Another discussion touched on the stakeholder consultations in the lead-up to the convention.

  • Additional reporting by Tham Yuen-C , Adrian Lim and Cara Wong

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2019, with the headline Cost savings for companies prompt many states to ink Singapore Convention. Subscribe