Singapore, which has transformed itself into a major arbitration hub over the past five years, is preparing to expand its disputes offerings with an international commercial court and a mediation center.
In a speech on Tuesday, Minister of Law K. Shanmugam said the continued growth of trade and investment in Asia, and the disputes that inevitably follow, has prompted the city-state to expand its international legal services beyond arbitration.
“[W]e seek to serve the region, and expand the work that Asia is attracting, by the provision of a neutral venue for every kind of dispute resolution,” he said.
An international commercial court would aim to attract to the Singapore court system cases international disputes involving parties from outside of the city-state. Dubai and Qatar have also recently set up such courts to try to attract cases that might otherwise go to New York or London.
The plans are still in early stages. Shanmugam said that setting up a international commercial court would require a change in the country’s constitution, and questions of jurisdiction and enforceability had yet to be decided.
“But if the product can be set up properly, it can fill a huge lacuna that now exists in this region,” and bring a new stream of disputes work to Singapore, he said.
Shanmugam has set up a committee chaired by Indranee Rajah, a senior minister of state for law, and Justice of Appeal V.K. Rajah to look into establishing the court.
The independently run mediation center would follow a model similar to the Singapore International Arbitration Center, according to Shanmugam, and have a board that includes leading international mediation experts. A working group has already been created to make recommendations on how Singapore should proceed, he said.
No deadline was given for when the mediation center, or the international commercial court, would be ready to launch.