In our recent client alert dated 8 April 2013, we reported that on 6 March 2013 the Union Assembly of Myanmar approved a resolution in support of the country's accession to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (the "New York Convention"). At the time, no deadline had been set for this process (which is effected by depositing an instrument of accession with the Secretary General of the United Nations).
Perhaps sooner than expected, on 16 April 2013 Myanmar formally acceded to the New York Convention – according to a depositary notification issued by the Secretary General on 24 April 2013. With this announcement, Myanmar becomes the 149th State party to the New York Convention, which is due to enter into force in Myanmar on 15 July 2013.
Myanmar's formal accession is a further positive step in the country's ongoing efforts to attract foreign investment. However, the process is not yet complete. The terms of Myanmar's accession have not been announced, and it is still unknown whether Myanmar has made any reservations – such as on reciprocity, which would compromise the New York Convention's remit.
More importantly, as we noted previously, Myanmar's current outdated legislation still requires an overhaul to provide a framework for international arbitration and ensure the effective operation of the New York Convention. It remains to be seen whether and in what form this can be achieved before 15 July 2013. The nature and extent of any education or training on modern international dispute resolution practice being provided to Myanmar's draftsmen and judiciary (who will eventually enforce the New York Convention) is also unknown.
Nonetheless, foreign companies negotiating contracts with Myanmar counterparties can now proceed on the basis that arbitration agreements referring disputes to international arbitration outside Myanmar and foreign awards should – at least in theory – soon be enforceable in Myanmar.