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Macau: Arbitration law reform

The Macau SAR Legislative Assembly has recently approved the draft of a new Bill to reform the SAR's arbitration framework by unifying and modernising the legislative regimes for both domestic and international commercial arbitration. The draft Bill proposes this will be done by matching the practices and standards defined under the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.

In Macau, there are two existing parallel regimes regarding arbitration: the domestic arbitration law (Decree-Law 29/96/M) and the international commercial arbitration law (Decree-Law 55/98/M). The latter was inspired by the original version of the Model Law approved in 1985, but does not yet include the recent initiatives and standards proposed by the amendments introduced in 2006.

The new Bill will unify those arbitration regimes and its key aspects include the following:

  • the possibility to submit to arbitration any contractual or non-contractual disputes of either civil or commercial nature, with the exception of matters that involve rights and interest that the parties may not dispose of (such as certain family matters);
  • the arbitration tribunal will have the authority to rule on cases in its own jurisdiction, including on any objections with respect to the existence or validity of an arbitration agreement, without having to resort to a court of law;
  • the express admission of compatibility with the arbitration agreement of any interim injunctions requested and decreed by the judicial courts under general procedural law, whether the arbitration takes place in Macau or abroad;
  • the arbitration tribunal will have the authority to grant urgent measures and preliminary orders which are destined to preserve the efficiency of the final award; and,
  • arbitral awards will not be subject to appeal; the parties, however, will be entitled to request the judicial court to annul an arbitration award within a period of three months, based on limited grounds, none of which allow for a full review of the decision based on merit.

This new legal framework ultimately aims to encourage resorting to arbitration in Macau as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism. It further intends to lay down the basis for the development in Macau of a commercial arbitration hub between China and Portuguese-speaking countries. This would enhance Macau's commercial and trade cooperation service platform role, the success of which depends on other (policy) measures involving the creation of institutional arbitration centres and attracting highly qualified human resources personnel in the area of arbitration.

João Nuno RiquitoMandy Fu

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