Between April and May 2019, the Singapore Ministry of Law had invited feedback on the proposed Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Bill.
The registration of foreign judgments in Singapore was governed by the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (REFJA) and the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act (RECJA).
There were a total of 11 countries covered under the two acts, specifically:
- The United Kingdom
- Hong Kong
- New Zealand
- Sri Lanka
- Windward Islands
- Brunei Darussalam
- Papua New Guinea
- India (except the state of Jammu and Kashmir)
On 5 August 2019, two bills were introduced in Parliament: the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Bill and the Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments (Repeal) Bill.
The Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Bill was intended to:
- Expand the scope of reciprocal recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments;
- Boost Singapore’s status as an international dispute resolution centre; and
- Streamline the statutory regime for the enforcement of foreign judgments into a single statute.
On 2 September 2019, the two bills were passed in Parliament. The Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Bill thus became the Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Act.
On 3 October 2019, The Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments (Amendment) Act came into operation.
The Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments (Repeal) Act will provide for the repeal of RECJA on a date to be stipulated by the minister. Reciprocating countries currently recognized by the RECJA are expected to be transferred to the new regime.
The scope of judgments which may be registered has been increased to include four further types of judgments:
- Nonmoney judgments, which would include freezing orders, injunctions and orders for specific performance.
- Lower court judgments.
- Interlocutory judgments.
- Judicial settlements consent judgments and consent orders.
The amended REFJA ensures that the requirement for reciprocity is not circumvented by providing that some types of foreign judgments will not be recognized:
- Where a judgment is given by a recognized court on appeal from a court which is not recognized; or
- Where a judgment is enforced in a recognized court but originated from a court that Singapore has no reciprocal enforcement arrangements with.
The Singapore International Dispute Resolution Academy (SIDRA) conducted a survey between 2016 and 2018 of over 300 corporates and external counsel around the world, which showed that the ability to enforce outcomes was the top consideration when respondents had to decide how to resolve cross-border commercial conflicts.
With this in mind, the changes to the REFJA in terms of streamlining the process of enforcing foreign judgments based on reciprocity likely means more foreign judgments will be enforced in Singapore, and similarly, the enforcement of more Singapore judgments in reciprocating countries.
For example, the expansion to include lower court judgments means that judgments from Singapore’s state courts may possibly be enforced overseas.
Further, the inclusion of interlocutory judgments and judicial settlements would mean that judgments may be enforced earlier, and would make Singapore courts more attractive to litigants.