Efficiency, economy and innovation are the hallmarks of dispute resolution in Singapore.
Based on the World Bank Doing Business Report 2020, resolving a commercial dispute through the Singapore Courts takes just 164 days, the shortest time recorded worldwide – under half the time in New York, and about a third the time in London.
Arbitration costs in Singapore are, in general, lower than most major centres of arbitration. As part of building a robust and vibrant legal services hub, Singapore offers arbitration-specific tax exemptions for non-resident foreign arbitrators.
With supportive government policies and a pro-business environment, international parties seeking to resolve commercial disputes in Singapore can expect laws that are responsive and keenly attuned to their needs. Singapore keeps abreast of commercial developments and international best practice in the knowledge that law, like the businesses it protects, does not stand still. For example, Singapore enacted new laws to allow for the use of third-party funding in international arbitration and mediation proceedings.
Arbitral awards issued in Singapore are enforceable in over 160 countries, as Singapore is a party to the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).
Money judgments of the Supreme Court of Singapore, which includes the Singapore International Commercial Court, are widely enforceable throughout the world.
In common law countries, and in certain civil law jurisdictions, there is no need for re-litigation of the merits of the case.
Money judgments of the Supreme Court of Singapore can be registered and enforced in the courts of countries which have reciprocal enforcement arrangements with Singapore.
Singapore ratified the Hague Convention on Choice of Courts Agreement in 2016. This Convention ensures that exclusive choice of court agreements in faviour of courts of Contracting States are effectively enforced, and the judgments rendered by the chosen courts are recognised and enforced in Contracting States.
The Singapore Convention on Mediation is the missing piece in the international dispute resolution enforcement framework. This Convention, also known as the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation opened for signing on 7 August 2019 and entered into force on 12 September 2020. It ensures that a settlement reached by parties is enforceable in accordance with a simplified and streamlined procedure. It also allows parties to invoke such agreements.
Singapore’s arbitration legislation has also adopted the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of 1985, including provisions which empower the Court to grant interim orders in aid of foreign arbitration.
Singapore has also adopted the United Nations Model Law on International Commercial Mediation and International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation 2019, which was amended from the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Conciliation 2002.
Singapore courts have a strong international outlook, and consider a wide diversity of foreign judgments in their decisions.
There is strong judicial support where the judicial philosophy is to accord a substantial degree of judicial deference to the outcomes and processes of international commercial arbitration in recognition of party autonomy. In Singapore, our courts have been slow to assume jurisdiction over a matter that the parties have agreed to refer to international arbitration, intervening only where appropriate and necessary to do so, and within the framework provided for by the New York Convention and our International Arbitration Act.
Where the arbitration matters are brought before the High Court or the Singapore International Commercial Court, specially-appointed judges, who have the experience to handle a wide range of complex issues, preside over them.
Choice of dispute resolution mechanisms, institutions and people
Singapore has an open regime for international commercial dispute resolution, which offers parties a choice of dispute resolution mechanisms, institutions, seats, and legal representation.
Parties are free to engage lawyers and arbitrators of any nationality and use any governing law. There is no restriction on foreign law firms engaging in and advising on arbitration and mediation in Singapore.
As for litigation, a party to proceedings commenced in the Singapore International Commercial Court (including in appeals arising from such proceedings) may be represented by foreign counsel registered with the Court in certain cases, including:
Offshore cases (actions which have no substantial connection to Singapore, excluding any proceedings under the International Arbitration Act that are commenced by way of originating process, and an action in rem under the Singapore High Court (Admiralty Jurisdiction) Act);
Where leave is granted to make submissions on any question of foreign law.
Singapore has an exceptionally diverse range of legal expertise, with legal professionals who are multilingual and familiar with international norms.
A growing number of global law firms have chosen to base international arbitration practice group offices in Singapore. Many leading and established barristers’ chambers now have a permanent presence in Singapore, giving parties a wide choice of experienced counsel to select from.
Majority of law firms included in Chambers & Partners Asia Pacific Guide 2019 rankings have a presence in Singapore.