On 23 January 2015, the Arbitration (Amendment) Bill 2015 was introduced into Legco and it had its first reading on 4 February 2015. As at the date of this article, no date has yet been announced for the 2nd reading.
The purpose of the Bill is to:-
- remove some legal uncertainties about the opt-in mechanism for domestic arbitrations under Part II of the Arbitration Ordinance (Cap 609); and
- update the list of parties to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (“the New York Convention”).
Opt-in mechanism for domestic arbitrations
The arbitration sector had expressed concern about certain legal uncertainties, namely whether parties opting for domestic arbitration and specifying the number arbitrators in the arbitration agreement, still retained their right to seek the Court’s assistance on matters set out in sections 2 to 7 of Schedule 2 of the Arbitration Ordinance. Sections 2 to 7 provide for applications that can be made to the court, including for consolidation of arbitrations, decisions on preliminary issues and challenges to and appeals against arbitral awards.
The amendments proposed in the Bill make it clear that parties can opt for domestic arbitration and decide on the number of arbitrators and still retain their right to seek the court’s assistance on those matters (referred to above) set out in sections 2 to 7 of Schedule 2.
New York Convention
The proposed amendments are to update the list of parties to the New York Convention to reflect the following changes:-
- The addition of new parties to the New York Convention, namely, Bhutan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Guyana.
- The UK’s notification to extend the territorial application of the New York Convention to the British Virgin Islands; and
- The change in name of name of “Bolivia” to “Bolivia (the Plurinational State of”).
The revisions once enacted should improve the opt-in provisions for domestic arbitration, thereby enhancing Hong Kong’s status as an international arbitration venue.