Amendments to the Singapore International Commercial Court Regime to strengthen Singapore as an international arbitration seat of choice

On 9 January 2018, amendments were passed to the Supreme Court of Judicature (Amendment) Act (“SCJA “) which clarify that the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC“) has jurisdiction to hear proceedings relating to international commercial arbitration.  The amendments also abolish the pre-action certificate procedure for applications to the SICC.

Established in 2015 as the ‘international’ division of the Singapore High Court, the SICC has gone from strength to strength in a short span of time, gaining a reputation for the quality and speed of judgments rendered. Since its establishment the SICC has heard 17 cases on matters ranging from construction, investment, banking and finance, and shipbuilding, all of which are high value cases involving international parties and counsel.

These latest amendments, along with the addition of four new esteemed international jurists to the SICC bench, are intended to further increase the popularity and usage of the SICC, and Singapore as a preferred seat of international arbitration. Continue reading

Developments in resolving cross-border disputes

With the increase of global commerce, it also becomes increasingly important to provide for effective and quick dispute resolution mechanisms across state borders. A number of developments in international law recognise this trend and seek to address it. These developments include:

  • The inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Resolution mechanisms in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement and the Transatlantic Trade and Investor Partnership,1
  • Further global acceptance of the importance of the New York Convention, which now has 152 signatories (Bhutan and Guyana being the most recent state to become parties), and
  • The European Union Justice Ministers approval of a decision to ratify The Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements.

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Getting Commercial: Proposal for a Singapore International Commercial Court

At the opening of the legal year in January 2013, the Chief Justice of Singapore announced a committee to consider the feasibility of establishing a Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”). This committee, comprising judges, in-house counsel and practitioners from Singapore and other common law jurisdictions, recently released its recommendations on establishing the SICC (its report is available here).

It is suggested that the SICC, which will be governed by a bespoke set of rules tailored to international commercial litigation, will hear cases governed by both Singapore and foreign law, with the SICC’s panel of judges including eminent international judges. In relation to questions of foreign law, it is noteworthy that SICC judges will be able to take judicial notice of foreign law with the assistance of submissions. In other words, foreign law need not be pleaded and proved as fact. This is in line with the practice in international arbitration.

Also of particular interest is the proposal to allow foreign counsel to appear in proceedings where the case has no substantial connection to Singapore. This recommendation – if implemented – would represent a significant liberalisation of the current rules as it would allow foreign law firms in Singapore to provide litigation services to international clients for the first time.

The Singapore Government has stated that it welcomes the Committee’s recommendations, which aim to build on the success of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, by increasing the range of dispute resolution options in Singapore open to international parties. The Government has announced a consultation period on the committee’s report, with interested parties able to submit responses until 31 January 2014.

We will provide an update on further developments once the Government provides its response.