New centre tackles cross-border business disputes

New centre tackles cross-border business disputes
Custom House in Maxwell Road was built between 1930 and 1933, and housed the Department of Customs and Excise until 1989. It is now called Maxwell Chambers and is an international dispute resolution centre.

Singapore is one step closer to being a regional hub for dispute resolution, with the launch of the Singapore International Mediation Centre yesterday.

Businesses entangled in cross-border commercial disputes will be able to settle their differences with the help of a mediator through the new centre at Maxwell Road.

There are currently 66 local and foreign mediators on the panel of the centre.

In a speech at the launch, Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon said the dramatic growth in trade and investment in Asia in recent years has led to more demand for quality dispute resolution services, but there was no organisation here focused on providing such services.

He said: "The Singapore International Mediation Centre will fill that gap and this will constitute a very significant step towards developing a more complete suite of dispute resolution services in Singapore."

Chief Justice Menon added that mediation is a particularly attractive way for businesses to settle their disputes, as it helps to preserve the relationships between disputing parties while they come to a mutually acceptable solution to the conflict.

The new centre will also benefit mediators as it provides opportunities for them to expand their portfolio of cross-border work, he added.

Law Minister K. Shanmugam, who was also at the launch, said in a statement that the new mediation centre will complement the arbitration sector and the upcoming Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC).

"Our focus on offering this complete suite of dispute resolution options for international commercial cases sets us apart from other jurisdictions, and enhances our standing as a one-stop dispute resolution centre," he added.

The centre adds to the upcoming SICC as well as the existing Singapore International Arbitration Centre.

On Tuesday, amendments to the Constitution - the supreme law of the land - were passed by Parliament, one of which is the setting up of the SICC.

The court will hear international cross-border commercial cases, including those governed by foreign law. It will be established as a division of the High Court and international judges will be appointed.

Meanwhile, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre is an independent organisation established in 1991.

Unlike court litigation, arbitration is a less formal procedure and is conducted in private.

Last year, the centre received 259 new cases.

Separately, the Singapore International Mediation Institute, which is a professional standards body, was also launched yesterday.

Mediation service providers or trainers can register with the institute, and mediators under these providers will then be accredited or certified.

Senior Minister of State for Law Indranee Rajah, who was a guest of honour at the event, said: "Unlike arbitration and litigation, which are adversarial processes and result in a 'win-lose' situation, successful mediation can sometimes result in a better outcome for the parties, as win-win situations can be achieved through a flexible mix of legal and non-legal solutions."

limyihan@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Nov 6, 2014.
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