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Straits Times: Republic 'well-placed to become global centre for investment arbitration'
ARBITRATORS here and abroad have identified a role for Singapore in investment arbitration, a specialised field of law involving disputes between investors and states.
They say that, given Singapore's success as a centre for commercial arbitration, it is positioned to become Asia's centre for investor-state arbitrations as well.
The prominent arbitrators and counsel, both local and international, who made the comments were attending an arbitration dialogue organised yesterday by the Ministry of Law.
It was a precursor to the 21st International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) Congress, which began yesterday at Marina Bay Sands and will run until Wednesday. The conference has attracted over 1,000 delegates.
The dialogue - led by Professor Michael Pryles, chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (Siac) - examined Singapore's potential as an investment arbitration centre.
Currently, most investor-state arbitrations are conducted in Paris and Washington, DC, because they are held under the auspices of the World Bank, which has offices in both cities.
Prof Pryles said: 'There's no reason why hearings can't be held in Singapore. What we have to do is let people know we have the expertise as well as the facilities, and that's something we need to attend to.'
Siac chief executive Minn Naing Oo said the centre had never done investment arbitration before, but 'there is nothing to prevent us from doing it'.
Asia is growing and attracting foreign investments, so there is interest in whether investment arbitration could come out of the growth in investments, he said.
He noted that this specialised but important field tends to deal with huge sums of money.
As an example, he cited the ongoing legal tussle between Ecuador and energy giant Chevron. In 1993, Ecuador sued Texaco, which was acquired later by Chevron, for having contaminated the Amazon since the 1960s.
A judge awarded Ecuador US$18 billion (S$23 billion) in February last year, but Chevron then sued Ecuador and its lead attorney for conspiring to shake down Chevron for a large settlement. The state has denied wrongdoing, and the lawsuit is pending.
At the dialogue, held in Maxwell Chambers yesterday, Law Minister K. Shanmugam gave the opening address, in which he outlined the Government's strategy for developing Singapore as a regional arbitration centre.
He noted that the number of cases handled by Siac had more than doubled over the past decade because of the supportive legislative framework, Singapore's connectivity to the region and the world, its neutrality as a venue, its commercially experienced judiciary, and the supportive infrastructure for arbitration.
The Government takes its cue from the industry's needs, consulting industry partners regularly, so that if the need arises, both legislation and policy can be changed swiftly, said Mr Shanmugam.
'Our aim is not to be a market leader in novel legislation, but to be a supporter of industry in a way it is comfortable with. Where the industry takes a conservative view, we will follow as well.'
The Law Ministry said it will consider the feedback given during yesterday's dialogue.
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