Special Address by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Law, at the SIAC-SCIA Conference in Shenzhen, China
08 Dec 2019 Posted in [Speeches]
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Colleagues from Singapore.
1. It's my pleasure to be here at this seminar which is jointly organised by our Singapore International Arbitration Centre and the SCIA.
2. We are glad that you're holding this conference here, in Shenzhen, which is a global innovation centre and a city that's contributing immensely to China's economic transformation – has contributed, and continues to contribute.
3. Last year marks the 40th anniversary of China's reforms, and opening up. It’s a remarkable achievement in 40 years, with more than 850 million people lifted out of poverty; and China has become the world's second largest economy today. Singapore has been a close witness to this reform journey, which started out in 1978. Which is fairly unprecedented in the history of humankind.
4. Mr. Deng visited Singapore in 1978. Singapore’s late founding father Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, met Mr. Deng for the first time. And Mr. Deng, looked at what Singapore had achieved and felt that something like that can be done in China. And Mr. Lee Kuan Yew told Mr. Deng, there was nothing that Singapore had done that China could not do, and which China could not do better.
5. During Mr. Deng’s famous Southern Tour in 1992, he was in Shenzhen and Mr. Deng said China should learn from Singapore, and do better.
6. Today, Shenzhen is a modern, vibrant city and the economic advantages are clear. It is China's Silicon Valley. It’s at the heart of the global tech supply city chain, and a dynamic startup and innovation city, and is positioned to play an even bigger role to the new Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macau Greater Bay Area Initiative.
7. As a driver of innovation and tech development, Singapore and Shenzhen are working closely together. We have established strong trade links from 1979 till now, and there's a cumulative investment of over US$2 billion in organising these projects in Shenzhen. And the China-Singapore Guangzhou Knowledge City has been upgraded to a state-level bilateral project, promoting cooperation in areas of tech innovation, intellectual property rights and high-tech sectors like biomedical science.
8. At the recent Joint Council on Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC) meeting in October, Singapore and China signed an MOU and launched the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative. The aim was to build digital connectivity and linkages, promote talent exchange and development, and tech innovation and collaboration. The partnership between SIAC and SCIA is part of our efforts to step up collaboration between Singapore and Shenzhen in the legal field.
9. We are working together to provide better support for Chinese and international businesses. Last year, an MOU was signed at the 9th Singapore-Guangdong Collaboration Council meeting, and the intention is to jointly promote international arbitration. The larger backdrop for the collaboration in Singapore and Shenzhen is strengthening legal cooperation between Singapore and China.
10. Since 2018, Legal and Judicial Cooperation has been included as an agenda item under BRI cooperation at the annual JCBC meeting, which is held at the Deputy Prime Minister level.
11. November last year, Premier Li Keqiang made an official visit to Singapore and in a joint statement issued during his visit, both sides agreed to strengthen legal and judicial cooperation and exchanges.
12. At the Second Belt and Road Forum this year, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and President Xi also agreed that legal and judicial cooperation is a new area of collaboration between Singapore and China.
13. Tomorrow, I will attend the Global Lawyers Forum in Guangzhou.
14. I will also sign an MOU with the Chinese Minister of Justice and his Ministry, and we will establish a Legal Cooperation Council that will be co-chaired at the vice-ministerial level, which will hold regular meetings. And the aim is to strengthen legal cooperation within China and Singapore in a wide range of areas, including legal services and commercial dispute resolution. We hope that that will bring our legal cooperation to a new and higher level.
15. Earlier in January this year, we co-organised the first high-level China-Singapore International Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference. That was done with the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT). This will be made into an annual joint conference, and the second edition will be in Singapore in April 2020. We hope that all of you and more will attend.
16. The BRI (Belt and Road Initiative), involves high-value, long-term, complex investments. Singapore can work with China. Most cases will be resolved in the home jurisdiction, which is China. But in some cases, the parties will have the disputes resolved outside China. In that context, Singapore is an obvious choice - open, trusted, neutral. Chinese parties are comfortable with Singapore, and so are non-Chinese parties. Whether they are American, whether they are Indian, whether they are Koreans, or Europeans.
17. Last year, Greater China was the number one user of SIAC. But the year before, the U.S. was the top user of SIAC. And if you look three, four years back, India was the top user of SIAC. So it depends on how many cases come. Germans, Americans, French, Indians, Chinese, they're all completely comfortable with SIAC.
18. Many Chinese arbitrators, as well as other international arbitrators ranging from Australia to UK to America, to Korea, Japan are on the panel. So, all sorts of cross border disputes, there are arbitrators. Top world-class arbitrators from every jurisdiction on the panel.
19. And there are several additional factors.
20. The strong economic and trade links to China – China has been Singapore's largest trading partner since 2013. Small as Singapore is, it’s been the largest foreign investor in China since 2013 as well. China's largest foreign investment destination along the Belt and Road, last year in 2018, was Singapore, with Singapore absorbing close to 23% of Belt and Road investments.
21. Singapore has worked on, has the expertise and products to handle disputes relating to large-scale infrastructure projects. This is through the Singapore Infrastructure Dispute-Management Protocol (SIDP). It incorporates new features; it takes a proactive dispute prevention approach. A dispute board is appointed from the start of the project rather than after the disputes have risen. And it provides a wider range of methods, including mediation, giving opinions, and of course making formal determinations. That minimizes the risk of time and cost overruns.
22. SIAC also came up with its first edition of investment arbitration rules in 2017. They also deal with issues in international investment arbitrations like delays, cost, confidentiality, submissions by non-disputing parties, funding arrangements. In some of these areas, we have taken the lead in the world. This is an area in which we can work closely with SCIA and exchange ideas, share expertise.
23. We have also strongly developed and promoted the use of mediation, which obviously offers many benefits for businesses. It's cheap, fast, non-adversarial and it works very well hand in hand with arbitration. You have the arbitration-mediation-arbitration protocol.
24. This year, there has been a significant breakthrough internationally on the mediation scene, because the UN Convention on Mediation, which we call the Singapore Convention, was signed in August of this year. 70 countries attended, of whom 46 actually signed the Convention, and we are very glad that China was one of the signatories. In September 5 more countries signed up, so the total number of signatories is 51. Many of you will be familiar with the New York Convention, 1958. Of course, a different time. If I remember the figures, 16 countries signed up in the first year.
25. We are working together to enhance the suite of dispute resolution options, including arbitration, mediation and litigation to support businesses. With the development of the Greater Bay Area, and BRI, and with the Chinese companies having become international, investing in projects both in China and overseas, the legal dispute resolution needs will grow between China and the rest of the world. It presents tremendous opportunities for China to work with specific trusted jurisdictions overseas.
26. In particular, if you look at it, Shenzhen. To work with Singapore to develop dispute resolution mechanisms that are tailored specifically to the needs of Asia, China and BRI, and which will also enjoy international credibility. And Singapore ranks number one, number two, in most international indices of rule of law.
27. So once again, thank you for having me here. I wish everyone a fruitful and productive seminar.
28. Thank you.
Last updated on 08 Dec 2019