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New Singapore International Commercial Court and the signing of Hague Convention

This article provides a high-level overview of the establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) to determine international commercial disputes. The SICC provides parties, especially those in Asia, with new forum selection opportunities.

The launch of the SICC

The SICC was launched on 5 January 2015. Eleven international judges have been appointed to the SICC. The SICC has been designed to cater for cross-border disputes, between foreign parties under foreign laws. For the first time, foreign lawyers who are not qualified in Singapore, will be able to register to have rights of audience before a Singaporean court, and the Singapore Court of Appeal (SICC list), in "offshore cases".

Jurisdiction

The SICC has the jurisdiction to hear international commercial disputes. "International" in this context means (among other things

1. the parties to the dispute have, by a written jurisdiction agreement, agreed to submit the dispute for resolution by the SICC and, at the time the agreement was
concluded, the parties have their places of business in different states; and

2. none of the parties to the claim have their places of business in Singapore;

The jurisdiction of the SICC is mainly consent based. There are two situations in which the court may assume compulsory jurisdiction. First, once a case has been commenced in the SICC, a third party may be joined by a court order without the third party's consent, Second, cases from the Singapore High Court can be transferred to the SICC, even if all parties object.

Judges

Along with the Chief Justice of Singapore, Judges of the Supreme Court and Senior Judge Chan Sek Keong, who are on the SICC panel of Judges, various judges have been appointed as international judges, including:

  • Mr Roger Giles (Australia), former Judge of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of New South Wales.
  •  Sir Bernard Rix (England & Wales), former Lord Justice of

Appeal in the Court of Appeal of England & Wales.

  • Ms Carolyn Berger (U.S.), former Justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware.
  • Justice Dominique Hascher (France), Judge of the Supreme Judicial Court of France.

Parties are unable to nominate their tribunal.

Some procedural advantages

There are some tangible procedural advantages in the SICC. For example:

  1. Foreign law: there is no requirement in the SICC to prove foreign law as fact. Cost and time will be saved by not having foreign law expert opinions.
  2. Disclosure: there is a more flexible and less onerous disclosure regime.
  3. Confidentiality: SICC proceedings can be made confidential, even if a counterparty objects.
Appeals

There is no separate SICC Court of Appeal set up to hear appeals from the SICC. Appeals will be heard by the existing Court of Appeal of Singapore, and will be administered under a dedicated SICC list of appeals.

Enforceability

As the SICC is a division of the High Court of Singapore, a SICC judgment will be a national court judgment.

Singapore signs the Hague Convention of 30 June 2005 on Choice of Court Agreements

On 25 March 2015, Singapore signed the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements 2005 (the Convention).3 Mexico has ratified the Convention and, significantly, the EU is ratifing the Convention,4 and it will come into force on 1st October 2015.5

Wider ratification of the Convention represents a real opportunity for international business. It promotes greater certainty for cross-border trade and commerce by according international recognition and effective enforceability to exclusive choice of court clauses, in favour of convention state courts and by ensuring that judgments rendered by the exclusively chosen court are recognised and enforced in other Contracting States.

Where on the web

For more on this topic, readers may access the A&O publication "Planting the Seeds for an International Rule of Law – The Commercial Court of England and Wales and the SICC":

Footnotes

1. An "offshore case" is one which has no substantial connection to Singapore.
2. Other grounds include (3) a substantial part of the obligation of the commercial relationship between the parties is to be performed in a place which is situated outside of any state in which any of the parties have their place of business; (4) the place with which the subject matter of the dispute is most closely connected with is situated outside of any state in which any of the parties have their place of business; or (5) the parties to the claim have expressly agreed that the subject-matter of the claim relates to more than one state.
3. See: http://www.hcch.net/index_en. php?act=events.details&year=2014&varevent=398.
4. EU Council Decision 2014/887/EU. The deposit of the EU's instrument of ratification is scheduled for 11 June 2015.
5. Article 27. It will enter into force on the first day of the month following the expiry of three months after 11 June 2015.