On 15 May 2018, a bill was submitted to the Belgian Chamber of Representatives setting up the Brussels International Business Court (BIBC), a court that will deal with international trade disputes between companies.

1. Why is an international Commercial Court needed?

Brussels is in urgent need of an English-speaking court which can intervene when there are disputes to be settled in English.

Many international and European institutions and enterprises have their headquarters in Brussels which has lead to a great increase in international trade being conducted in English in Brussels.

In the absence of an international court in Brussels, companies hitherto had to go abroad (e.g. London) or have recourse to private arbitration to have their disputes settled in English. As a result, many disputes escaped the jurisdiction of the Belgian courts.

Furthermore, after the Brexit, it will no longer be so easy to have recourse to a court in London, which will inevitably lead to an increase dispute resolutions in the English language in Brussels.

The fact that such an International Commercial Court will benefit the reputation of both Belgium and Brussels is a nice added bonus, as it could play a vital role in attracting foreign investments into the country.

2. How will the BIBC operate?

By virtue of the Brussels International Business Court, businesses in Brussels will be able to settle disputes in English, either with another business or between a headquarters and a Belgian branch.

The BIBC will act as a (unique) Commercial Court in English in which both professional judges will sit, derived ad hoc from the existing courts and tribunals, as well as lay judges who will also be engaged ad hoc, all of which will work together every time a concrete case presents itself. This will make the BIBC a highly specialised court with a unique formula of cooperation between professional and lay judges who will be selected from among experts in the fields that the BIBC will be handling, a judicial panel of top specialists settling disputes in international commercial law.

This will further contribute to the efficiency of the procedure and of the authority of these rulings, which will allow the BIBC to make rulings in first and last instance, therefore making the rulings unable to be appealed.

3. How will the BIBC be used?

Appeals to this court can only be made on a voluntary basis with the agreement of both parties. The parties will have to pay a substantial registration fee in order to start the procedure, which will serve to cover the costs, including the special attendance fees of the lay judges.

4. How will the justice process work?

The administration of justice itself will be based on the model of the international trade arbitration provided by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law. There is therefore a major deviation from the common law of the Belgian Judicial Code.

Parties will be able to freely choose the applicable law.

5. Conclusion

The BIBC will be an important tool for all companies involved in a cross-border dispute in English.

This may make Brussels a hub for international dispute resolution.

However, it should be kept in mind that private arbitration will remain a viable option for international trade disputes, even after the creation of the BIBC.