On 7 February 2018, in the presence of the French Minister of Justice, agreement protocols were signed by the Court of Appeal, the Commercial Court and the Paris Bar which provide for the creation of a specialist Chamber (or division) of the Paris Court of Appeal dedicated to the resolution of international disputes.
This initiative aims to promote the attractiveness of the Paris Courts as a forum to resolve cross-border disputes, in particular in relation to complex financial contracts, contracts for the international carriage of goods, intellectual property litigation, international arbitration, etc.
This development is part of an emerging trend seen in several EU jurisdictions. With the prospect of Brexit, several Member States are seeking to optimize their courts and tribunals to handle English law and/or English language disputes. Broadly, this phenomenon reflects two things: first, the fact that most major financial contracts in international trade are drafted in English and are governed by English law; second, the possibility that the status of the English Courts could be diminished by Brexit (in particular, if the EU and UK do not sign up to a successor regime to the Brussels Regulation). This could potentially lead parties that might otherwise have litigated in the UK to look elsewhere to resolve their disputes.
The report laid down by the High Legal Committee of the Paris Financial Center (Haut Comité de la the Place Financière de Paris), on 3 May 2017, under the Chairmanship of Guy Canivet (hereinafter the "Canivet Report of 3 May 2017"), highlighted 41 recommendations for the implementation in Paris of a specialized division of the Court of Appeal to deal with international disputes.
Under these recommendations, as is the case in the existing specialized Chamber for international disputes of the Paris Commercial Court created in 1995, which merged with the specialized Chamber for European law in 2015, the use of the English language – the common business language – in hearings and testimonial evidence will be favored in proceedings in order for the economic operators to benefit from an attractive jurisdictional system.
It is however noteworthy that the use of English before the French courts is not without its difficulties, given that the ordinances of Villers-Cotterêts (dating from 1539) require the use of the French language in domestic courts.
For this reason, the Canivet Report of 3 May 2017, which recommendations are duplicated in the protocols, provides that pleadings (subpoenas, submissions and judgments) shall remain in French with however a translation into another language chosen by the parties. By contrast, exhibits may be exchanged in English without a translation. Similarly, pleas, expert testimonies and other statements may be made in English, with the assistance of simultaneous interpreters.
In addition, the possible introduction of some common law rules, in particular regarding the production of evidence, is also considered.
With the implementation of these protocols, Paris – the leading European centre for international arbitration - aims to compete with Brussels, Amsterdam and Frankfurt, who are each taking similar steps, to provide an additional venue for international dispute resolution by way of litigation.
This new specialized division will start its activities in March 2018.
Further information is available on the following link:
– Canivet Report of May 3, 2017: http://www.justice.gouv.fr/publication/Rapport_chambres_internationales.pdf