BEIJING: Singapore and China have inked an agreement to set up an international panel of mediators, to better handle disputes that may arise from projects under the multi-billion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
The panel will comprise skilled and experienced dispute resolution professionals from China, Singapore and other countries involved in the BRI.
The BRI refers to China’s plan to boost trade by connecting Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Europe, through a series of infrastructure projects, such as railways and ports.
A Memorandum of Understanding to set up a BRI mediator panel was signed between the Singapore International Mediation Centre and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) in Beijing on Thursday (Jan 24).
This comes as more disputes are expected as the ambitious initiative, first announced by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013, continues.
“BRI projects tend to be high-value, multi-party and multi-jurisdictional,” said Senior Counsel George Lim, Chairman of the SIMC.
“These factors raise the chances of a dispute occurring during the course of project delivery and also complicate the dispute resolution process.”
So, under the new agreement, both parties will jointly develop the rules, case management protocol and enforcement procedures for BRI dispute cases submitted for mediation.
Those on the panel will also undergo a skills exchange programme, to familiarise themselves with the business and dispute resolution culture of the various jurisdictions involved.
The signing of the agreement was witnessed by Senior Minister of State for Law Edwin Tong at the first China-Singapore International Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference.
In a speech, Mr Tong said Singapore and China can work together to develop a new way of settling cross-border commercial disputes that reflect Asian values and is tailored to Asia’s needs.
He pointed out that the rules and procedures for settling cross-border commercial disputes today are generally adversarial and embody western values and norms.
While those have their merits, they may not necessarily be the best for all types of disputes.
Instead, Mr Tong said, what is common across Asians is the value placed on relationships and preserving harmony.
"Mediation is one which has become the focus," said Mr Tong in an interview with Singapore media.
"Obviously the way in which we staff the mediators, the way in which we create the rules for such disputes - injecting into it an element of negotiation and mediation before we have to go down the path of a full-blown arbitration - those are some of the things we are looking at to make this a lot more tuned to how Asians might want to do business and more importantly how Asians might resolve disputes."