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28 Jun 2023

Arbitration insights from Singapore - Japan as a viable neutral seat for arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region

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In this second edition of Arbitration insights from Singapore in 2023, Singapore-based international arbitration partner Chris Bailey examine Japan's credentials as a viable neutral seat for arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region, and covers other recent developments including Japan and the United Kingdom's endorsement of the Singapore Convention on mediation.

Lead article: Japan as a viable neutral seat for arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region

In this second edition of Arbitration insights from Singapore in 2023, we examine Japan's credentials as a viable neutral seat for arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region.

In particular, we consider six long-awaited reforms to Japan's dispute resolution and international arbitration capabilities, infrastructure and legislative regime: (i) amendments to Japan's Arbitration Act (Act No 138 of 2003); (ii) the 2021 amendments to the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association's ("JCAA") rules; (iii) judicial reaffirmation of arbitrators' disclosure duties; (iv) a tacit shift in the approach towards third party litigation funding; (v) the adoption of the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the "Singapore Convention"); and (vi) the opening of the Japan International Dispute Resolution Center's ("JIDRC") Tokyo facility on 30 March 2020.

In many respects, Japan is now equipped to outpace other emerging regional jurisdictions such as South Korea, Malaysia, and Thailand, and commercial parties seeking a neutral seat of arbitration are now presented with Japan as a viable alternative which merits serious consideration. Click here for the full article. 

Other developments: Japan and the United Kingdom endorse the Singapore Convention on mediation

As discussed in the lead article of this edition, on 9 June 2023, the Japanese National Diet approved Japan becoming a signatory of the Singapore Convention. Importantly, the Singapore Convention will allow settlement agreements arising from international mediation to be enforced before the Japanese courts.

The Singapore Convention is described as a multilateral treaty which offers a uniform and efficient framework for the enforcement and invocation of international settlement agreements resulting from mediation. It applies to international settlement agreements resulting from mediation, concluded by parties to resolve a commercial dispute. 

In December 2018, the United Nations General Assembly, by consensus, passed a resolution to adopt the Singapore Convention, and authorised the signing ceremony of the Convention to be held in Singapore on 7 August 2019. As of 22 June 2023, the Convention has 55 signatories including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and the United States.

The most recent signatory to the Singapore Convention was the United Kingdom on 3 May 2023 and the Convention likely to come into force in the United Kingdom at some point in 2024. Click here for the Singapore Convention's homepage.

Japan practice: The firm's long standing relations with Japan and its economy

The firm's global network of offices has been engaged in the Japanese economy and supported Japanese corporates overseas for decades, with a particular focus on banking and finance, transportation, construction and energy industries.

As part of the consistent and deliberate development of our Japan practice, the firm hired Chris Bailey out of Tokyo after 15 years in the city to lead the firm's international arbitration practice in Singapore. Chris began his time in Tokyo with a 2 year client secondment to one of Japan's leading trading houses and, at the time of his departure from Japan, Chris was ranked as one of only two Band 1 Lawyers by the Chambers legal directory in the category of International Dispute Resolution in Japan. 

Chris remains as close to Japan as ever and was invited to speak at the 1st Tokyo Arbitration Day hosted by the ICC Arbitration on 18 April 2023. His chosen topic was 'Japan, Toward a Preferred Place of Arbitration', and our global head of arbitration, Rovine Chandrasekera, was also in attendance. Click here for coverage of the event. In recent weeks, Chris was invited by the Singapore International Mediation Centre ("SIMC") to attend the SIMC (Japan) Specialist Mediators Workshop in Tokyo on 19 and 20 May 2023 which was held at the JIDRC. Click here for coverage.

Upon successful completion of the SIMC course, Chris has been called to an empanelment ceremony to the SIMC Specialist Mediator Panel followed by a special event co-organised by SIMC during the ASEAN-Japan Special Meeting for Justice Ministers on 6 July 2023. 

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