The recent move by two groups of Queen's Counsel from London to set up shop in Singapore is a testimony to the city state’s standing as a global arbitration hub. It has been reported that the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has so far handled close to 150 cases this year involving claims over $1.4 billion, compared to 86 cases involving some $310 million in 2007. The fact that two thirds of arbitrations conducted in Singapore only involve foreign parties proves that Singapore is a destination of choice when it comes to arbitrations.
A 2007 report published by the ICC International Court of Arbitration ranked Singapore as the top city in Asia for ICC arbitrations and one of the five most popular arbitration venues since 2000, alongside Paris, London, Geneva and Zurich. The entry of the two groups gives further boost to the reputation of Singapore as an arbitration hub.
Singapore is a party to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. This means that an arbitral award made in Singapore is enforceable in any of the approximately 140 countries which are signatories to the Convention. SIAC was setup in 1991 to speed up the resolution of commercial disputes and develop Singapore as a center for legal services.
Arbitration is a fast growing segment of legal practice and both local and international arbitration service providers have reported brisk growth due to the efficiency of the system in Singapore and the accessibility of Singapore to the regional clients. The administration fees charged by SIAC are very moderate and among the lowest worldwide. The city-state is also home to the ICC International Court of Arbitration’s Asian regional office and has the highest number of ICC arbitrations in Asia. In line with its status as legal hub the passing of Legal Profession (Amendment) Bill has provided more leeway for foreign firms in Singapore.
The government has also been proactive in extending fiscal incentives and infrastructure development. Maxwell Chambers, a dedicated center for international dispute resolution on Maxwell Road, was opened recently and the Chamber along with the SIAC also houses alternative dispute resolution bodies such as the International Center for Dispute Resolution (ICDR), the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) and the ICC.
Singapore is considered a gateway into the regional markets hence many large scale investments are routed through Singapore and many of the MNC’s have their regional headquarters in Singapore. Singapore being a regional hub of commercial activities has also naturally evolved into an arbitration hub as well. Along with infrastructure, human resources, a sound legal system is an essential aspect to attract international business to Singapore. Amidst the prevailing economic predicament, arbitration facility is also becoming an important factor for potential ventures and investors who find Singapore an ideal location.
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