Speech by Senior Minister of State for Law, Indranee Rajah at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre's Annual Appreciation Cocktail Reception
19 Feb 2013 Posted in Speeches
Dr Michael Pryles, Chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC),
A very good evening to all of you. It is a great pleasure for me to be here at SIAC’s annual Appreciation Event, and to share in SIAC’s celebration of yet another fruitful year.
First of all, my congratulations to Dr Michael Pryles, the SIAC Board and SIAC CEO, Mr Minn Naing Oo and his team on the outstanding 2012 results. In particular, I note that SIAC has recorded a 25 per cent increase in new cases from 188 cases in 2011 to 235 cases in 2012. It also achieved the record-high figure of S$3.61 billion in terms of the total sum of disputes arbitrated, which far surpasses the combined amounts from 2010 (S$1.35 billion) and 2011 (S$1.32 billion). You can’t achieve that sort of quantum, unless the people who want to arbitrate are convinced of the quality of the arbitration, the neutrality of persons involved and the whole arbitral environment. So, those figures – what they signal and what they speak of, are the quality of the counsel, quality of the arbitrators and quality of the SIAC. And that to me is what the figures represent and that is something we are very happy to see.
We are proud to see that SIAC has steadily risen in standing as a leading international arbitration institution and is now holding its own against older traditional arbitration powerhouses. It has consolidated its position as a preferred arbitration centre in Asia, with many more people writing in SIAC and Singapore into their contracts.
As Michael mentioned, SIAC will establish a new SIAC Court, which he will helm as its first President. Mr Lucien Wong will be appointed as the new Chairman of the SIAC Board. There is no better person to helm the SIAC Court than Michael, with his international standing and extensive arbitration experience. Lucien, one of our foremost local practitioners who is held in high esteem in legal circles, will help SIAC chart its business development and expansion strategies. I am certain both Michael and Lucien will steer SIAC in its next phase of growth.
- SIAC’s statistics signal a growing number of international cases gravitating to Singapore. Its growth is the result of the holistic approach that Singapore has employed in the last few years to develop Singapore’s arbitration eco-system:
- We have a completely open regime for international commercial arbitration.
- Parties engaging in arbitration in Singapore have the freedom to engage lawyers of any nationality and to use any governing law.
- We have introduced tax incentives for arbitrators and arbitration work.
- Our Courts have been strongly supportive and pro-arbitration.
- We have also put in much effort to ensure that our legal framework for arbitration is at the cutting edge of arbitration practice. Apart from being signatory to the New York Convention and ensuring that our International Arbitration Act is UNCITRAL Model Law compliant, we continue to actively update our International Arbitration Act (IAA), through regular consultation with the arbitration community.
- Aside from SIAC’s sterling results, there were also a number of major milestones in 2012 for arbitration in Singapore:
- In the first half of the year, after a rigorous public consultation process, we amended the IAA to update various provisions, taking into account practitioner feedback and international developments;
- In June, Singapore hosted the International Council for Commercial Arbitration’s 21st Congress which attracted a record attendance of around 1,000 participants and speakers from the global arbitration scene.
- In November, the International Arbitration Academy, organised under the auspices of NUS’ Centre for International Law held its first three-week programme. The course provided attendees with the opportunity to interact with both local and international leading arbitration experts and practitioners who formed the teaching faculty.
- Arbitration continues to be an exciting sector which offers many opportunities. I am pleased to see the growth of arbitration expertise in the local Bar, at all levels. I hope the local practitioners will continue to build capacity and strength in arbitration-related work and expertise. This area of growth offers opportunities which we hope will benefit both local and foreign arbitration practitioners. This will enable Singapore to continue to be the arbitration centre of choice for the region as well as internationally.
- The growth of the arbitration sector has occurred in tandem with concerted efforts to deepen and broaden our legal services sector in recent years. We introduced our first round of Qualifying Foreign Law Practice (QFLP) licences in 2008, with the award of licences to six top international firms. The Joint Law Venture and Foreign Law Alliance vehicles have also been enhanced to allow greater collaboration between local and foreign firms. This has attracted international work to Singapore, including arbitration work. Eighty per cent of the QFLPs’ revenue comes from offshore work, that is, which could have been done elsewhere.
- Earlier today, my Ministry announced the award of a second round of QFLP licences to four additional international law firms. These efforts, alongside those on the arbitration front, will enable Singapore to further develop itself as a global venue for legal services.
- In 2013, we will continue to build on the work done in 2012, with a view to ensuring that Singapore’s legislative, physical infrastructure, tax incentives and other policies continue to provide a conducive and welcoming environment for legal services and arbitration activities in Singapore.
- Lastly, and in parting, I am pleased to learn that SIAC will be launching its first SIAC Awards Book, which highlights redacted SIAC awards. The book is being published by Lexis Nexis in partnership with SIAC. I am certain that the publication of this Book will contribute towards the development of jurisprudence, and provide useful insight to arbitration practitioners.
- On this note, I offer once again, my congratulations to SIAC for their successes in 2012, and wish the team an even more successful 2013.
- Thank you.
Last updated on 09 Mar 2013