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Singapore as a preferred venue to resolve disputes in Asia?

January 1, 0001

 

According to the results of the 2010 International Arbitration Survey conducted by Queen Mary, University of London (“2010 Survey”), Singapore was rated as highly as Paris as a preferred destination to resolve international disputes and ahead of traditional destinations such as New York based upon factors such as perceived neutrality and impartiality and track record for enforcing arbitration agreements and awards.

The 2010 Survey considered the key factors which influence corporate decision making in respect of international arbitration. In particular, it focused on factors which influence the choice of law(s), choice of seat, choice of arbitrators and choice of arbitral institutions, given that these decisions can result in important legal and tactical advantages when resolving a dispute. It was based upon an unprecedented 136 questionnaire responses and 67 in-depth interviews across the world.

Among the more interesting findings from the 2010 Survey is that Singapore has emerged as a regional leader in the resolution of disputes by way of arbitration in Asia.

When it came to choosing a seat for arbitration, respondents reported that the national arbitration law, the jurisdiction’s track record for enforcing arbitration agreements and awards and the perceived neutrality and impartiality of the jurisdiction were the most important factors. Singapore was rated highly in each regard.

According to respondents, London remains the preferred seat for international arbitration, with 30% of respondents designating it as the preferred destination, ahead of Geneva with 9%. However, the recent effort by Singapore to promote itself as a regional hub for arbitration has clearly been a success, with 7% of respondents listing it as their preferred seat, ranking it alongside Paris and Tokyo and ahead of many traditional seats such as New York. This can be contrasted with the results of the previous survey conducted by the University in 2006, in which Singapore did not rate a mention.

Of course it is not merely the perceived neutrality of Singapore which makes it an attractive seat in which to resolve disputes. Other factors include: 

 

  • state of the art support facilities such as the Maxwell Chambers, the largest integrated dispute resolution complex in Asia;
  • convenience - Singapore is centrally located in Southeast Asia with over 4,000 scheduled flights a week to 185 cities; 
  • the use of the UNCITRAL Model Law as the cornerstone of Singapore’s arbitration legislation; 
  • arbitration ‘friendly’ courts, which offer a high level of support for arbitration yet a minimal level of intervention; and 
  • party autonomy in the selection of counsel of any nationality to represent them in arbitrations.

Interestingly, Singapore was also rated as the most attractive jurisdiction when respondents were invited to rank seats they had not used previously. Presumably this will translate into an even larger number of disputes being resolved in Singapore in the coming years.

O’Melveny & Myers regularly represents clients in international arbitrations in Singapore and across Asia.