The unique advantage of Singapore

Author: | Published: 1 Aug 2012
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What is your role at the SIAC and how large is your team?

Rachel Foxton heads the business development team at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) while I am part of the case management team and also head India initiatives.

The SIAC team is about 20 strong and consists of lawyers qualified in various jurisdictions including Singapore, India, the UK, Belgium, Malaysia and Canada.

As part of the business development team, Rachel and I market the SIAC's capabilities in different jurisdictions and we carry the message on the need for international institutional arbitration as a dispute resolution mechanism to legal and business communities in developing jurisdictions. We also train and create awareness on jurisprudence on international arbitration law and practice across jurisdictions.

What have been the most important dispute resolution developments in India recently?

Indian courts, in recent times, have been more supportive of foreign seated arbitrations, and have been reluctant to exercise jurisdiction in such cases.

As readers will be aware, in early 2012, a five-judge Bench of the Supreme Court of India carried out an audit of some of the controversial Indian court decisions on the scope of powers of the Indian courts in relation to international arbitration. A decision is expected soon. On invitation from the Court, the SIAC filed an intervention before the five-Judge Bench to share the Singapore judicial and legislative experience with similar issues on the interpretation of the Model Law.

These are very promising developments for the future of international arbitration involving Indian parties.

What are the greatest challenges for foreign investors engaged in litigation matters in India?

Much like Singapore, India has a robust legal system and a strong judiciary guided by the rule of law.

Having said that, the feedback that we have received from our users is that delay remains a challenge in the resolution of disputes by Indian courts and the primary reason why they have turned to dispute resolution outside India.

Why do you think foreign investors are resolving their Indian disputes in Singapore?

Singapore is in a unique global position in as much it is an established centre for outbound and inbound investment between Asia and the rest of the world. Its growth as a preferred international dispute resolution destination is borne out of several factors including its neutrality and the excellent infrastructure available for arbitration. Singapore's legal system has constantly and strongly supported international arbitration, party autonomy and the finality of arbitral awards. Singapore nurtures a liberal market that freely permits foreign counsel and arbitrators to participate in arbitral proceedings. Singapore's judiciary is viewed as one that understands and encourages commercial enterprise and is independent from influence. Singapore is also a naturally neutral seat, a global city and is geographically well located in relation to India and the rest of the region.

In addition to the above, Singapore enjoys a unique advantage in relation to Indian disputes due to its familiarity for Indian parties. Singapore is also one of 45 jurisdictions notified by the Government of India as being New York Convention territories from which Indian courts will recognise and enforce arbitral awards.

Our experience has also been that costs, timelines and the availability of certain unique procedures under our Rules have been factors that have contributed to parties choosing to arbitrate at the SIAC and in Singapore, in preference to other jurisdictions and institutions, particularly in India related contracts.

What issues do investors face when resolving disputes in Singapore?

While investors in the region are familiar with the SIAC and Singapore as a dispute resolution destination, many financial institutions in Europe and the US are not as well acquainted with the knowledge and expertise that is available here. We therefore have a strong need to reach out to them, particularly in connection with Asia related disputes.

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