Malaysia – KLRCA and the fight against corruption

As part of its effort to provide a corruption-free arbitration environment, in June the Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA) signed the Corporate Integrity Pledge (CIP) with the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC). In line with its efforts to battle corruption, the KLRCA has also revised its Code of Conduct for Arbitrator. The revised Code includes new anti-corruption provisions in line with the CIP including:

“5.4 An Arbitrator shall decide all the issues submitted for determination after careful deliberation and the exercise of his own impartial judgment and shall not permit outside pressure, fear of criticism or any form of self-interest to affect his decisions.”

The most recent iteration of KLRCA’s Arbitration Rules came into force just over a year ago on 2 July 2012. The Rules were an update of KLRCA Arbitration Rules 2010. The revision follows provisions of the Arbitration Amendment Act 2011 that emphasise the courts' non-interventionist and pro-enforcement stance, which were enforced in July 2011.

South Korea

The Korean Bar Association and the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB) officially launched the Seoul International Dispute Resolution Centre (Seoul IDRC) in May. The Seoul IDRC will host various international arbitral institutions, including the American Arbitration Association/International Centre for Dispute Resolution (AAA/ICDR), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC), the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), the London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), and the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). The Seoul IDRC was created in the hopes of becoming a global international arbitration hub in Northeast Asia, modelled after Maxwell Chambers in Singapore, the world's first integrated dispute resolution complex providing hearing facilities for international arbitration proceedings. The first arbitration hearing was conducted at the Seoul IDRC last month, and feedback from the participants was very positive.

Leveraging on Korea’s leading IT technology and excellent wireless broadband network, the Seoul IDRC is designed to bring technological innovation to international arbitration proceedings. One key feature is technology that enables real time recording of the parties’ submissions which are then displayed on the individual tablet PC provided to each participant in the hearing room.

The first arbitration hearing was conducted at the Seoul IDRC last month, and feedback from the participants was very positive. Law Times, an online Korean legal news website reported that an arbitrator said he would rank the facilities of the centre as the best in the world. The parties liked the central location of the Seoul IDRC and its efficient staff, and found Seoul to be a convenient and business-friendly city with great hotels and amenities.

South Korea opened its legal market last year, and around 18 international law firms have already opened offices in Seoul. Also, more big local firms are growing their international arbitration practices. Against this backdrop of a growing international arbitration market, the Seoul IDRC is expecting an economic effect of USD 2 million per case to the national economy, and aims to host 15 hearings in the first year and up to 200 hearings in the first 5 years.

As for nationality of parties, the Seoul IDRC is hoping to attract not only cases involving Korean parties but other countries in Northeast Asia, especially disputes between parties from Japan and China.

In order to achieve its international arbitration ambitions, some homework remains to be done by Korea. In February this year, the Seoul Southern District Court refused to enforce an UNCITRAL arbitration award against a state owned entity, KT Skylife. Mr. Hi-Taek Shin, Chairman of the Executive Committee at the Seoul IDRC has assured the international arbitration community that a special committee consisting of practitioners, scholars and government officials are working together to revamp the arbitration laws in Korea and persuade the courts to be more arbitration-friendly.

Myanmar and the New York Convention

Myanmar is a signatory to the Geneva Protocol on Arbitration Clauses 1923 and the Geneva Convention on the Execution of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1927 (Geneva Convention). However, this has posed problems for foreign investors as only 15 signatory countries are recognised by Myanmar as reciprocating territories, including England and France, but not Hong Kong or Singapore.

As part of the economic and political reforms to attract foreign investment, in March Myanmar’s parliament approved plans to sign the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards 1958 (New York Convention).

Signing and ratifying the New York Convention would mean that awards passed in all 148 signatory countries would (in theory) be enforceable in Myanmar. Similarly, arbitral awards made in Myanmar would likewise be enforceable in signatory countries that are already party to the New York Convention.

In April, Myanmar deposited an instrument of accession with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, consenting to be bound by the New York Convention and acceding to it. The Secretary- General’s depository notification dated 24 April 2013 confirms that the New York Convention should come into force in Myanmar on 15 July 2013. The next step will be for Myanmar to continue with its efforts to reform and amend its domestic legislation to implement the New York Convention.

The history of arbitration law in Myanmar, based on English common law, can be traced back to 1886 when Myanmar became part of British India. Until 1937, the laws of India applied to Myanmar including the Code of Civil Procedure of 1882 (India Act No. 14 of 1882) in which the provisions relating to the law of arbitration were embedded.

Hong Kong – New HKIAC Administered Arbitration Rules 2013

Hot on the heels of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre’s (SIAC) announcement of its new governance structure and revised SIAC Rules of Arbitration in April, on 10 June 2013 the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC) published the HKIAC Administered Arbitration Rules 2013, which will come into force on 1 November 2013.

Following extensive user consultation and feedback the 2013 Rules are designed to reflect modern practice in international commercial arbitration. The 2013 Rules seek to facilitate effective institutional involvement within a structure that recognises the importance of party autonomy. Some key features include:

  • Improvements on Expedited Procedure
  • Emergency Relief
  • Multi-party and Multi-Contract Provisions
  • Improved Terms and Conditions to Streamline Arbitrator Appointment Process

In 2012, the HKIAC saw a 40% increase in the number of cases fully administered in accordance with its Rules. In May 2013, the HKIAC opened its first overseas office in Korea in the Seoul International Dispute Resolution Centre.