SINGAPORE: Home Affairs and Law Minister K Shanmugam on Wednesday (Aug 7) said that he expects that the Singapore Convention on Mediation will come into force "relatively fast" for an international treaty.
His comments came at a press conference shortly after 46 countries, including economic heavyweights China and the United States, signed the convention on the day it opened for signature.
The convention, named after the city for its leading role in negotiating it, comes into force when at least three countries have ratified it.
READ: A 'powerful statement' for multilateralism, says PM Lee as 46 countries ink Singapore Convention on Mediation
The treaty, which took three years of work, will allow signatories to enforce mediation settlement agreements. Currently, there is no way to ensure that a disputing party honours such an agreement.
Singapore and some other countries will be "fairly quick" to ratify the convention, he said. While he did not want to put a time frame to when the convention would come into force, he said: “I would be surprised if it hasn't come into force before the middle of next year."
Countries that have signed will have to go through a domestic process to ratify the convention, which Singapore will also have to go through, Mr Shanmugam said.
He said he expects more countries to sign up next year, and that some countries may have other domestic priorities at this point.
"Some of them have gone through election, some of them (have) other issues. So, this is one of the many things they have to consider and there is a process, usually it would have to be looked at by legal advisers, and then it would have to be looked at by the respective ministries," he said.
Countries signing the treaty would often also require the approval of the top executive decision-making body, and sometimes parliamentary approval, he said. That 70 countries showed their support by turning up and 46 of them have signed is an "astonishing response", he said.
The number at the signing ceremony was "quite unprecedented" he said, describing it as a "tremendous success".
INCREASING PROFESSIONALISM IN MEDIATION FIELD
Mr Shanmugam also said the professionalism in the mediation field needs "levelling up".
“We need to encourage more mediators around the world, in different countries. Now that there is a formalised system and a structure, which could be applicable across jurisdictions, I think that would encourage greater professionalism,” he said.
In response to a question on what China and the United States signing the treaty means for their ongoing trade war, Mr Shanmugam said that the issues between the two countries are "far bigger" compared to the role the convention can play.
"This convention is helpful in strengthening the multilateral order, it’s helpful in terms of facilitating international trade flows. But when there are differences which arise at the strategic and political level, they also have to be dealt with at that level," he said.
However, he said both countries feeling it was important to sign it is “very indicative” of the importance they place on the convention.
"There was general consensus that the Singapore convention would be significant in helping international trade and business flows and multilateralism," he said.