On 20 October 2016, ACICA hosted a seminar on the “Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”) – A viable option for international dispute resolution?”, presented by Mohan Pillay and Toh Chen Han, partners in the Singapore office of Pinsent Masons MPillay.

The presentation went through the working of the SICC in some detail. A copy of the slides can be found here. The last 2 slides provide a useful summary of what the speakers thought were areas where the SICC may have an advantage over the international arbitration route for settling international disputes. These areas include costs, the option for ‘forced’ joining of parties (the SICC being a division of the High Court of Singapore) and document discovery options.

Even though the SICC is trying hard to accommodate an arbitration environment within a court setting, e.g. options for confidentiality and flexibility on evidence rules, the limited enforceability of the judgment in only 38 countries, which do include Australia and New Zealand, but not such countries as China, Russia, most ASEAN countries, North & South America (except for Mexico) and Africa remains a concern for the SICC to be considered a viable alternative for international arbitration. It is hard to see how international arbitration does not trump the SICC option for international dispute resolution at this point in time, with an arbitral award being enforceable in 156 (soon 157) countries through The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958, better known as the New York Convention.

This enforceability argument may change when the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005, to which Singapore is already a party, gets traction in more countries, and in particular in such countries as USA and China. However, reaching the level of the New York Convention will not happen any time soon, and even then, key differences between court proceedings in different countries, e.g. a US Court awarding punitive damages, may cause problems for recognition and enforceability in the court of another country that does not accept this type of damages.

The night wrapped up with networking drinks and nibbles in the ACICA foyer.

Mohan Pillay and Toh Chen Han are the authors of the recently published “The SICC Handbook – A Guide to the Rules and Procedures of the Singapore International Commercial Court” (Sweet & Maxwell, 2016), which considers the SICC’s genesis, its rules and procedures and explores its key points of difference from arbitration, the opportunities it creates for international disputes practitioners, and explore the impact the SICC on international arbitration.  The text can be ordered through Sweet & Maxwell here.

Author: Brecht Valcke, King & Wood Mallesons