With the aim of providing a mechanism for the promotion of international commercial dispute resolution in the context of cross-border trade and development, in August of 2018, China’s Supreme People’s Court established its first International Commercial Expert Committee to provide advisory opinions and assist in the mediation of disputes. The Committee consists of 32 Chinese and foreign experts. A recent report noted that ‘the International Commercial Expert Committee is designed to ensure operation and promote adjudication of the International Commercial Court, and support to resolve international commercial disputes through arbitration, mediation, litigation and other diversified commercial dispute settlement methods.” According to Susan Finder, this Committee appears to be the “first of its nature within the Chinese justice system.”
After three years of active negotiation, UNCITRAL working group members successfully reached agreement on the formation of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation. The treaty will be signed in Singapore in August 2019 and named the Singapore Convention on Mediation.
At present, when parties seek to enforce the outcomes of cross-border disputes, they have two existing means of recourse through the NY Convention (for international arbitration) and the Hague Convention (for cross-border litigation). However, until now, parties to cross-border mediation had limited if any means of enforcing cross-border settlements. With the Singapore Convention, mediation is now a viable option for parties seeking to resolve cross-border disputes.
Ms Sharon Ong, part of the Singapore delegation to UNCITRAL noted that at the final stages of negotiation, when a 2017 blizzard shut down the United Nations Headquarters where delegates had been meeting and squeezed into a nearby law firm’s conference room, “we resolved a lot of the issues that had been sticking points for many years. We all just came with a spirit of co-operation, so it was very collaborative and people were very open about things.” Mrs Morris-Sharma, chair of the UNCITRAL Working Group noted that “In any process that involves reaching a common understanding of how processes should be approached, delegations had to consider how this new system would fit in with their domestic processes… Thankfully I think we managed to strike a balance between the divergent views through the Singapore Convention.”
When ratified, the Convention will encourage commercial entities to resolve their disputes on the basis of party autonomy and agreement which mediation affords.
A China international arbitration court was recently established in Haikou, Hainan Island in July of 2018. The Court of International Arbitration in Hainan is the second to be established after the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration was opened in January of this year. Hainan has recently been designated as a free trade zone. Shi Wen, head of the Hainan Arbitration Commission, noted that the new Court’s council members will be comprised of both Chinese and overseas arbitrators. The Court in Hainan has two centres, one focusing on maritime arbitration and the other on financial arbitration.