In November, the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) published the CIETAC Arbitration Rules 2015 ("the 2015 Rules"),  which will enter into force on 1 January 2015.

The changes are designed to improve the efficiency of CIETAC arbitral proceedings and bring the  CIETAC Arbitration Rules closer in line with international best practice. The 2015 Rules also  introduce special provisions applicable to the CIETAC Hong Kong Arbitration Centre ("CIETAC Hong  Kong").

Key updates include:

Emergency arbitrator procedure

The 2015 Rules introduce an emergency arbitration procedure, in line with other international  arbitral institutions. The procedure allows parties to apply for an emergency arbitrator to grant  urgent relief, either by agreement or in accordance with the law applicable to the arbitration. The  existence of emergency proceedings does not preclude a party from applying to any competent court  for interim relief and the power of the emergency arbitrator would cease on appointment of the  arbitral tribunal.

As the Arbitration Law in mainland China does not provide for emergency arbitrators, the new  provisions will apply principally to arbitrations administered by CIETAC Hong Kong (see below).   The Hong Kong Arbitration Ordinance was amended in July 2013 to provide for emergency relief  granted by an emergency arbitrator to be enforceable in the same manner as an order or direction of  the court. (The updated law supported the introduction of emergency arbitrator provisions into the  HKIAC rules in mid-2013.)

Single arbitration under multiple contracts

New provisions are introduced for parties to apply for a single arbitration under multiple  contracts in one case, providing for greater efficiency, if the following requirements are met:

  1. the contracts are master and accessory contracts, or are of the same nature and between the  same parties;
  2. the dispute arises from the same transaction or the same series of transactions; and
  3. the arbitration agreements of those contracts are the same or compatible.

An enhanced consolidation procedure

The revised Article 19 no longer requires the agreement of all the parties in order to consolidate  parallel proceedings.  At the request of a party, CIETAC may decide to consolidate several  arbitrations into a single arbitration under the following conditions:

  1. all claims in these arbitrations are made under the same arbitration agreement; or
  2. the claims in the arbitrations are made under multiple arbitration agreements that are  identical or compatible, the arbitrations involve the same parties and the legal relationships are  of the same nature; or
  3. the claims in the arbitrations are made under multiple arbitration agreements that are  identical or compatible, and the multiple contracts involved consist of a principle contract and  its ancillary contracts; or
  4. all parties agree to consolidate.

New joinder provision

New provisions are introduced under Article 18 for third parties to join an existing arbitration. A  party may file a  request at CIETAC to join a third party to the arbitration proceedings if the  requesting party can establish a prima facie case that the third party is also bound by the  arbitration agreement.  The request for joinder is determined by CIETAC.

Provisions for Hong Kong arbitration

CIETAC set up its Hong Kong Arbitration Centre in September 2012.  The 2015 Rules introduce a new  chapter of special provisions for Hong Kong arbitration.

The provisions expressly state that, unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the law applicable to  arbitral proceedings in CIETAC Hong Kong shall be the arbitration law of Hong Kong and that the  arbitral award shall be a Hong Kong award. Accordingly, enforcement of a Hong Kong award in the  mainland would be pursuant to the arrangements for mutual enforcement, and not as a domestic award.

Other notable features particular to CIETAC Hong Kong include:

  • the power to appoint an emergency arbitrator and the enforceability of interim relief orders  (see above),
  • a fee structure different to CIETAC in the mainland: in keeping with international trends  towards greater transparency, arbitrators' fees have been separated from the administrative fee for  arbitrations seated in Hong Kong,
  • the parties are free to nominate arbitrators from outside CIETAC's panel of arbitrators.

CIETAC structural changes

Under the 2015 Rules, CIETAC has also undergone some structural and administrative changes:

  • A new Arbitration Court has been established to take over the case administration role from  the Secretariat, allowing the Secretariat to focus on internal administrative matters.
  • Following the "split" of the former Shanghai and South China (Shenzhen) sub-commissions from  CIETAC (Beijing) in 2012, the 2015 Rules clarify the structure of CIETAC, with the sub-commissions  listed in Appendix I.   For the purpose of removing confusion and ambiguity after the "split", new provisions are  introduced under Article 2 to confirm that where an arbitration agreement provides for arbitration  before the former Shanghai or South China (Shenzhen) sub-commissions, whose authorization has been terminated, the arbitration  will fall within the jurisdiction of, and will be administered by CIETAC (Beijing).

The 2015 Rules are a welcome update to reflect international best practice and to facilitate the  operation of CIETAC Hong Kong. Kong.