Updated: 12/04/2013 02:24

Singapore primed to be international commercial law hub

Singapore primed to be international commercial law hub

Singapore will fly the flag as an international commercial law hub, if the recommendations made by two committees are implemented. 

Law Minister K Shanmugam told a news conference today the government welcomed the recommendations. 

The committee on the Singapore International Commercial Court or SICC, has recommended that it be set up as a division of the High Court. 

Law and Foreign Minister K Shanmugam says Singapore is an obvious choice for establishing an international court. 

"Fundamental factors that make Singapore successful as a legal jurisdiction are that our courts are highly regarded, we are neutral. So we are the only place in Asia that can be seen as completely neutral for people all over to come and hand over their disputes. Logistics is easy - flying in, flying out. Lots of foreign lawyers, lots of local lawyers. High quality of legal expertise available. The laws, the framework is friendly towards supporting party autonomy and letting people get on with the dispute resolution work as they wish." 

The committee recommends the new court focus on disputes outside Singapore and cases that are usually not dealt with here 

A panel of SICC judges, including current Supreme Court judges, ad hoc Associate Judges and possibly, international jurists, could hear them. 

There could be three categories of cases. 

First, where parties agree to use the SICC after the dispute arises. 

Second, where parties have previously signed a contract giving the SICC jurisdiction over any possible disputes. 

And third, where the Chief Justice of Singapore transfers the case from the High Court to the SICC. 

Lawyer Sathinathan Karuppiah says that it's a good move, given the increase in cross-border transactions. 

"Most of the foreign disputes will be taken out from the High Court and be transferred to this specialised court. Parties may get a quick resolution. And even the mediation process connected to it will help parties go for alternate dispute resolution. That would save parties' cost and time." 

The other committee has recommended having a non-profit group, the Singapore International Mediation Institute, to set standards and provide accreditation for mediators. 

This, Mr Shanmugam says, will help extend the nation's lead as Asia's best legal centre. 

"We are looking at substantially beefing up resources to create a first class mediation centre. Mediation has a clear place between the dispute arising and going by the arbitration or actual litigation. It's less costly, it's more sensible. But you need good mediation centres, good mediation experts to bring the parties together and get them to see how the issues can be resolved." 

-By Valerie Koh

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