Singapore in bid to win arbitration work

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has beefed up its rules in a bid to lure more arbitration work to the city state.

Changes include allowing parties to conduct proceedings in languages other than English, empowering the chairman to choose arbitrators if parties cannot agree and allowing parties to opt out of using SIAC rules.

SIAC came into existence six years ago and has carved out a respectable reputation in the closely knit international arbitration circuit which is dominated by traditional centres such as London, Paris and Stockholm. Since it was established, 215 cases have been lodged with two thirds involving foreign parties.

Simon Stebbings, a partner at Freshfields who sat on the SIAC advisory committee looking at the changes, said: “There was no fundamental problem with the rules. But it was time to update them.”

He said the centre was being written into more and more arbitration clauses in contracts, particularly those involving South East Asian companies.

In making its rules more user-friendly, Singapore is also hoping to secure an advantage over Hong Kong, the predominant arbitration centre in Asia.

Christopher Seppala, an arbitration partner at the Paris office of White & Case, said: “Even before the recent changeover, Hong Kong had overhanging it the fact that it would be part of China. Naming a place [in an arbitration clause] that is about to be transferred to a communist state seemed imprudent and unnecessary because Singapore is as acceptable as Hong Kong and doesn't have a political cloud over it.”