Singapore has been shaping itself as a first-class hub for international arbitration, among other things. And as its neighbours know, what Singapore wants, Singapore usually gets, writes Joanna Law

Singapore was in the international spotlight recently as the country selected for the headline-grabbing and controversial meeting of US President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

The two met on 12 June, kicking off an unprecedented summit between the two leaders. Regardless of the political polarization of the meeting, the fact that Singapore was chosen as the location is evidence of the popular perception of the city-state as a neutral space.

This rings particularly true for arbitrations, and many legal firms and practitioners believe Singapore is unrivalled in Asia. It’s seen as a place that gets things done, where transparency is high and where legislative change within its dominant-party structure is unshackled by the roadblocks inherent with multi-party democracies and their close relatives.

According to the 2018 International Arbitration Survey conducted by the School of International Arbitration, Queen Mary University of London, Singapore was once again ranked in the top five most preferred seats of arbitration globally as it was in the previous survey conducted in 2010. One significant difference compared with the previous International Arbitration Survey is that Singapore has overtaken Hong Kong and has surged ahead to 3rd place, behind only London and Paris. Respondents to the same 2018 International Arbitration Survey also placed the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) as the third-most-preferred arbitration institution globally, ahead of the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.

“Just looking at these statistics, it is difficult to dispute that Singapore is the international arbitration hub in Asia,” says Bazul Ashhab, partner and head of dispute resolution at Oon & Bazul in Singapore.

Michelle Chiam, deputy centre director of SIAC, says Singapore is home to all the key players that are critical to the successful resolution of a dispute: institutions, arbitrators, law firms, barristers’ chambers, and professional service and ancillary service providers. “By convening the relevant parties and offering a comprehensive range of options, Singapore serves as a gateway for the dispute resolution needs of parties from around the world,” Chiam says.

On 2 July 2018, the SIAC announced the launch of an inaugural module titled “SIAC and Institutional Arbitration” in collaboration with the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Faculty of Law. The module introduces the role and function of arbitral institutions in the practice of international arbitration, as well as the complex issues that arbitral institutions face in the administration of arbitrations, such as appointment of arbitrators, issuance of arbitral rules and practice notes.

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