Speech by Second Minister(Law) Edwin Tong at SG China Intl Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference
7 Apr 2022 Posted in [Speeches]
Mr Luo Dongchuan
Deputy Secretary and Head of the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of CPC Fujian Provincial Committee; and
Head of Maritime Silk Road Central Legal District Leading Group
Mr Lui Tuck Yew
Singapore’s Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China
Mr Cui Yonghui
Member of the Standing Committee of CPC Fujian Provincial Committee; Secretary of CPC Xiamen Municipal Committee; and
Head of China’s Maritime Silk Road Central Legal District Xiamen Leading Group
Mr Ren Hongbin
Secretary of the Leading CPC Members Group; and
Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)
Speakers and Moderators
Friends and Colleagues from Singapore and China
Ladies and Gentlemen
- Good morning to all of you.
- It is such a great pleasure to be here, in person, with you this morning. It is also a great pleasure to be here at the 2nd Singapore-China International Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference.
- I still very vividly recall our inaugural conference in Beijing in January 2019. I dug up some old photos to show you how different it was back then – more than three years ago now.
a) It was, in my view, a resounding success for all parties involved at the inaugural conference.
b) For our speakers and moderators, it was an opportunity to share knowledge and experience, make friends, and learn from one another.
c) For the participants, they not only got to hear about the latest developments in international commercial dispute resolution from the experts, but more importantly, also got to interact with one another – catching up with old friends, and making new ones at the same time. The excited chatter and buzz during the tea breaks and dinner said it all. We cannot quite do it here still, but we will get there.
d) And for the organisers – MinLaw and CCPIT, that was the first time we collaborated on a project, and it certainly showed us that we could work well together. It strengthened the friendship that we had built over the years, and set a firm foundation for further and deeper cooperation.
- I am therefore very glad that we are able to come back here together again, to organise the second conference, especially on this very special and joyous occasion of CCPIT’s 70th anniversary. So, join me as we congratulate CCPIT on reaching a milestone year! 我在此祝贸促会七十周年快乐，愿贸促会好景无限、宏图大展！
- 我有信心，在您的领导下，我们双方的合作关系会越来越密切。期待早日能与任鸿斌会长见面. I have every confidence that this close relationship that we have between MinLaw and CCPIT, will further flourish under your new leadership, and I look forward to meeting you in person sometime soon.
- MinLaw and CCPIT go back some way. In fact, we celebrate our 5th anniversary this year!
- We first visited CCPIT in January 2017. Since then, my colleagues and I have made it a point to drop by and visit, and keep our relationship with CCPIT warm whenever we were in China, where possible. We also supported CCPIT in some of their events, for instance, the International Mediation Summit, and the International Commercial and Legal Cooperation Forum. Through these interactions, we got to know and understand each other better.
- Even though we could not meet in person – we have not been able to do it for two years now – our bond has not been weakened in any way, and in fact, if anything, our cooperation, even virtually, has deepened our friendship. This is very evident from the collaborations we have had over the years.
Singapore-China International Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference
- The first is this Singapore-China International Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference.
- We were planning to hold the second edition – some of you know – first in 2020, but we could not do it, and then again in 2021, but we still could not do it. It was postponed twice, due to the pandemic. And now here we are, in 2022.
- This shows that we never gave up, and tried to make sure that we have the second edition to what was a very successful inaugural edition. That is why we are here today.
- I am very happy that this morning that we will be signing a Memorandum of Cooperation, committing to organise a joint conference every year, alternating between Singapore and China.
- I think there is a lot of value to having a regular platform like this, particularly at a time later on in future. I am sure we can do that soon – where we can come together in person, interact, socialise, exchange ideas, share a lot of thought leadership in person, allowing our practitioners, business leaders, academics, and officials to gather, bond and exchange ideas. In today’s world, we are very much inter-connected, in so many different aspects. And our people often work together, knowing each other, coming together even briefly, makes for an overall easier and much smoother collaboration.
Joint Dispute Resolution Mechanism/Centre
- The second is our ongoing work to develop a joint dispute resolution mechanism.
- MinLaw and CCPIT signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the sidelines of the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting in 2020. This was to set up a Working Group to study the feasibility of setting up a joint dispute resolution mechanism, including having a joint dispute resolution centre.
- Given the strong business and trade links between Singapore and China, and of course the deep legal expertise that sit in our own respective countries, a dispute resolution centre, jointly owned by entities in Singapore and China, and staffed by our people familiar with our business environment. Understanding how business disputes are resolved, in an Asian context in particular, will provide confidence to companies operating in this region. This joint dispute resolution centre can marry the best of what we currently have – in terms of people, rules, and in other areas. It will complement our independent arbitration and mediation centres, and will work alongside with them, to better support our businesses.
- The Working Group, I am pleased to say, has completed its initial discussions, and we will now be setting up a Joint Experts Team, to study the legal feasibility, and to take this project further forward. The experts comprise of very eminent practitioners and academics from both Singapore and China, some of whom are present here in this room today. I am confident that they will be able to make suitable recommendations, after studying the relevant legislation, the landscape and most importantly, understanding deeply the business environment because ultimately and fundamentally, dispute resolution does not exist on its own. It exists to support businesses, resolve disputes in as efficient and efficacious way as possible, so that more businesses will want to come into this environment, operate from Singapore and China, work on the BRI and have their disputes resolved here – but fairly, transparently and efficiently.
- This is just the start – I am confident that there is more that we can do together.
- Let me share some thoughts as to what else we can do. First, we could go upstream, and consider developing a common set of commercial rules, that can be used by businesses in Singapore, in China and beyond, as well as businesses which operate in this arena. We all know that disputes arise, and often takes time, effort, and lots of angst to resolve, in part due to the ambiguities of the contract, and I think the lawyers in this room only know that too well. A common set of rules will reduce misunderstanding and uncertainty due to differences, and ultimately, try as best as we can, to help to avoid conflicts upfront.
- Second, we could further strengthen our people-to-people exchange. Conferences, of course, like this, are one way to bring people together. But it will also be useful for those who work the system and work in the system, for our law firms and our businesses to work together for an extended period of time, so that they can better understand each other’s context, their own challenges, and how to operate in this environment - from not just a working environment context, but also the business context, and perhaps, as importantly, the working culture as well. MinLaw is in discussions with Chinese stakeholders on secondment and exchange programmes, and we welcome CCPIT’s support, given your wide network of businesses in China.
Before I end, let me once again express my sincere appreciation to:
a) CCPIT and the International Commercial Dispute Prevention and Settlement Organization (ICDPASO), for co-hosting the conference together with us;
b) The co-organisers and supporting organisations, for all your support, all the hard work that has gone into this;
c) All the speakers and moderators, all our distinguished guests, for taking time to share with us your insights today;
d) The Joint Experts Team, for allowing us to tap on your expertise so generously; and
e) All the participants, online and offline, for joining us today.
- I hope we can do a physical conference in the not-too-distant future, and welcome everyone to Singapore next year.
- Hopefully, we do not have long to wait to see each other again in person. We are organising the Singapore Convention Week again this year, from 29 August to 2 September. We look forward to having all of you present here, and I want to invite all of you who are overseas to come to Singapore to attend the Singapore Convention Week.
- Thank you very much once again for having me here, and I wish all of you a very fruitful conference and a good day.
Last updated on 07 Apr 2022