Opening Ceremony Speech by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, and Second Minister of Law Edwin Tong SC, at the International Mediation Summit
30 Mar 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Ren Hongbin (任鸿斌) 会长, Chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)
Luo Dongchuan (罗东川) 书记, Deputy Secretary of the CPC, Fujian Provincial Committee
Ladies and gentlemen
1. Good morning. 各位嘉宾，女士们，先生们，大家早上好！
2. Thank you very much for inviting me to speak again at the International Mediation Summit this year.
3. I am very delighted to be able to join you in person, not just online, and to visit Xiamen again, after several years. I saw a little bit of the city yesterday, on my way in from the airport. It is a beautiful, charming, and clean city.
4. Singapore and Xiamen go back a long way. Many of our early immigrants in Singapore came from Xiamen. The first Chinese junk boat to sail directly from China to Singapore in 1821 departed from Xiamen, establishing the first shipping route between China and Singapore.
5. Following Mr Deng Xiaoping’s visit to Singapore in November 1978, and the introduction of China’s reform and opening up policy in December 1978, Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited China in 1980. One of the cities he visited was Xiamen.
6. At that time, Xiamen was established as one of the four ‘special economic zones’ in China, and opened up to foreign direct investments. Since then, a number of Singapore companies have come to Xiamen, and invested in Xiamen. This includes Bee Cheng Hiang, Camel Nuts, Crestar, Kinderland, Luzerne, Mapletree, OCBC, PSA, ST Aerospace, and UOB, just to name a few.
7. Over the years, we have deepened our cooperation in many areas. In healthcare for example – the Fujian (Xiamen) - Singapore Friendship Polyclinic is China’s first public primary healthcare institution, modelled after Singapore’s public polyclinics in design and also in operations. In aviation – the cooperation that we have between Changi Airport and Xiamen Airlines. In maritime – the cooperation between YCH and Xiamen Port. And in many other fields, between our respective enterprises, in manufacturing, in technology, and also in modern services.
8. With the construction of the Maritime Silk Road Central Legal District in Xiamen, there is potential to now also advance our legal cooperation.
9. I am very optimistic that we can do this, because we share common beliefs, objectives and goals. We both believe that a law-based environment is the best environment to do business. We recognise that businesses need to have confidence in their investments and their rights will be protected under the laws, and if disputes arise, that they will be resolved fairly, transparently, regardless of who the other party is. We also both believe that a well-developed legal industry is essential, to support these businesses.
10. This can be achieved by strengthening our legal systems, optimising our legal services, developing our local and foreign talents, and building our legal infrastructure.
11. Specifically, on dispute resolution, we both appreciate that businesses may prefer different mechanisms, depending on their needs. Hence, we have developed a “one-stop shop” or a “complete suite” of dispute resolution services comprising arbitration, mediation, and litigation.
12. Xiamen is of course home to the Xiamen Arbitration Commission, the International Commercial Mediation Centre for BRI, and the Xiamen International Commercial Court. Likewise, in Singapore, we have the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (“SIAC”), the Singapore International Mediation Centre (“SIMC”), and the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”), which have gained international recognition. So with so much common grounds, I am confident that we will have ample opportunities for us to work together.
13. I welcome the remarks earlier by Mr Ren Hongbin and Mr Luo Dongchuan about strengthening the ties between Singapore and China, deepening our roots in cooperation and establishing a common platform for both our economies to be able to be better served.
14. We already have made a very good start. The Maritime Silk Road Central Legal District was one of the supporting organisations of the 2nd Singapore-China International Commercial Dispute Resolution, organised by my Ministry, CCPIT, and the International Commercial Dispute Prevention and Settlement Organisation in April last year. The hybrid conference was held, not only in Singapore and Beijing, but also here, in Xiamen, for the very first time. With the very strong support of the Chinese leaders, it was a great success last year, attracting more than 2 million views online on one day. In fact, as I see from the number up there, today seems to have exceeded that number. So it shows the great interest that our audience, both in Singapore and China, and the rest of the world, have in the topics of discussion at this Summit.
Suggestions for Future Legal Cooperation
15. There are also other areas of cooperation that we can consider. Let me just talk about a few.
16. First, on international mediation, which is what this Summit is all about. I find mediation very well-suited in our Asian culture – our Asian way of doing business, where even in disputes, we try to promote peace, harmony, and preserve the relationships.
17. China was one of the first signatories of the Singapore Convention on Mediation (“SCM”), when it opened for signature in Singapore in 2019. If China can also be the first amongst the major trading partners and economies to ratify the SCM, it will send a very strong signal to other countries, and greatly enhance the effectiveness of the SCM. Today, as of now, we have 11 countries that have signed and ratified the SCM.
18. Singapore organises a Singapore Convention Week every year, to discuss the latest developments on the SCM, to share ideas and promote thought leadership on mediation and other aspects of dispute resolution. We hope to welcome more of our Chinese friends to the Singapore Convention Week this year, so that we can learn from your experiences and share ideas. Perhaps, if there is interest, we can also consider holding a satellite event in China, here, to bring the event, and the thinking, and the discussions, closer to the Chinese enterprises.
19. Second, we can work together to enhance our dispute resolution services. Last year, we announced the establishment of a joint experts team with CCPIT, to study the legal feasibility of developing a joint dispute resolution mechanism, including a centre. In my view, this will marry our expertise, and offer an alternative option which parties in China and BRI may be more comfortable with. So I look forward to the completion of the study, and the experts’ recommendations on the path forward to get this done.
20. Our institutions have in fact been working together to offer better services to their users as well. For example, the SIMC and the Shenzhen International Court of Arbitration (“SCIA”) are working on an arb-med protocol, where a SIMC mediated settlement agreement may be recorded as an SCIA arbitral award, and enforced in China. All of these steps work to our mutual benefits.
21. Third, and what I think is also very important, we can cooperate on people-to-people exchanges. Businesses often need advice on different laws, different industries and different practice areas for their contracts and disputes. It is almost impossible to anchor all the top experts in one city. It takes a lot of investments to set up an office, and sometimes, businesses can only choose one location in Asia. If our lawyers collaborate, if those who are interested in the legal services can come together and work together, they will be able to better deliver a whole suite of services to their clients.
22. But to do it effectively, to be able to understand the different nuances in culture, in the way we do business, they need to understand each other and develop a stronger relationship between each other. They need to understand the business environment, the culture, the spoken, and more importantly, the unspoken language of communications.
23. These are just some suggestions, and I am sure that, in the course of this Summit over the next few days, you will be discussing even more ideas.
24. In conclusion, I am very confident that with the strong foundation that we have already built over the years, we will be able to move forward now, deepen our cooperation, deepen our friendship, work towards our mutual success, and achieve even more in the years ahead of us.
Last updated on 30 Mar 2023