The College of Law recently hosted a seminar in cooperation with the Singapore international Arbitration Centre (SIAC) and the China Britain Law Institute (CBLI) on the topic of 'Singapore's role in the Europe-Asia legal 'ecosystem''. The event brought together a range of practitioners and experts from around Asia.
Singapore has been successful at capturing a large proportion of the growing Asian market. Looking just at SIAC, it is the world's fastest growing institution for commercial arbitration and 57 per cent of its cases have no connection with Singapore.
According to panellist David Brynmor Thomas, barrister at London's Thirty Nine Essex Street: “Singapore is now becoming the legal centre that it aspired to be 20 years ago”. This was attributed to the city state’s modern, arbitration legislative climate and first class facilities.
Korean panellist Kap-You Kim of Bae, Kim and Lee emphasised that for him the convenience of time zone and location could not be underestimated when choosing where to arbitrate. Mr Kim emphasised that 10 years ago the majority of his Korean international arbitration work related to cases seated in London and Geneva, now it is in Singapore.
Panellist Denis Brock, partner at King & Wood Mallesons' Hong Kong office, pointed to the Singaporean government fostering an arbitration-supportive environment. Key factors include the ease at which arbitrators can be appointed, the open legal market (relative to the rest of the region) from which to draw legal advice, the availability of experts, the courts' support of arbitration – including rules permitting the ad hoc admission of foreign counsel for arbitration-related court hearings, and the ease at which stakeholders in an arbitration can enter Singapore without a visa.
The Singaporean government's apparent commitment to developing arbitration in its territory is borne out by its proactive approach to updating its arbitration legislation. Several amendments have been made to Singapore's International Arbitration Act since it came into force in 1994, many of which aimed to make Singapore a more desirable place to arbitrate. The 2012 round of amendments re-defined 'arbitration agreement' to include unwritten agreements, conferred upon the arbitral tribunal the power to order compound or simple interest, enabled the courts to review an arbitral tribunal's decision to refuse jurisdiction, and gave statutory recognition to the appointment of emergency arbitrators prior to the arbitral tribunal being properly constituted. In comparison, since the UK passed its Arbitration Act in 1996, no substantive amendment has been made.
For panellist David Brynmor Thomas it could be said that the Singapore government and SIAC have together created a 'virtuous circle' to encourage parties to seat in Singapore and to use SIAC's rules, each encouraging the other.
Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (firstname.lastname@example.org)