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Changes introduced to International Arbitration Bill

The Parliament has made amendments to the International Arbitration Bill to further strengthen the country's position as a hub for international arbitration.

SINGAPORE: The Parliament has made amendments to the International Arbitration Bill to further strengthen the country's position as a hub for international arbitration.

Moving the second reading of the Bill in Parliament on Monday, Law Minister, K Shanmugam said the government began developing Singapore as a hub for international arbitration in mid-2000.

Since then, Singapore has come a long way.

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre's caseload has gone up from 58 in the year 2000 to 188 in 2011.

Mr Shanmugam said this is not including arbitrations administered by other institutions, and ad hoc arbitrations.

He said an Asian Legal Business article in December 2011 called Singapore's rise in the world of arbitration as "meteoric", and asked if Singapore had become the most popular Asian seat.

And later in June, Singapore will host the 21st Congress of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA).

This is the first time since 2004 that it is meeting in Asia, emphasising Singapore's growing status as a hub for international arbitration.

So, there are four main amendments to the Bill, broadening the definition of an arbitration agreement, providing recourse against negative jurisdictional rulings by an arbitral tribunal, clarifying the tribunal's power to award interest, and recognising emergency arbitrators and interim orders.

Under the changes, an arbitration agreement which is concluded orally, by conduct or through other means and its content is recorded in any form, is recognised as an arbitration agreement in the context of the International Arbitration Act (IAA).

Mr Shanmugam said in the Ministry's consultation last year, the overwhelming majority of arbitrators and practitioners were of the view that the broadened definition better reflected commercial reality.

The next change is in the area of negative jurisdictional ruling which is one where the tribunal holds that it does not have the jurisdiction to hear a dispute.

Such a ruling can now be appealed to the High Court and appealed further to the Court of Appeal, if the High Court grants leave.

Mr Shanmugam told the House that amendments to the Bill will signal to the international arbitration community, Singapore's continued commitment to providing the fullest legislative support for international arbitration.

Meanwhile, the Foreign Limitation Periods Bill was passed in Parliament on Monday.

This clarifies which country's limitation laws will apply to disputes which are heard in Singapore - whether in litigation or arbitration - but which are governed by the laws of another jurisdiction.

For example, when a contractual dispute is initiated in Singapore in relation to a contract governed by the laws of England, the Bill provides that the applicable limitation period will be determined by English law, rather than by the laws of Singapore.

Mr Shanmugam said this rule is subject to two exceptions.

The first is where its application would conflict with public policy.

The second exception stipulates that the absence of a party from the jurisdiction will not be a valid reason for the suspension or interruption of a limitation period.

Source: CNA/ck/ms


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