Kuala Lumpur Regional Centre for Arbitration (KLRCA) is preparing to further enlarge its footprint with potential tie-ups with its counterparts from Jamaica and Canada.
Last month, KLRCA signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with the Jamaica International Arbitration Centre (JIAC) and the Vancouver-based British Columbia International Commercial Arbitration Centre (BCICAC).
The agreement with JIAC is said to be the first such MoU with an international body for the Jamaica centre.
“Jamaica is making new frontiers in arbitration with the emergence of JIAC and new legislations and we are very excited to be a part of this historical period,” KLRCA director Datuk Prof Sundra Rajoo said in an update via the social media.
Both MoUs pave the way for the parties to explore the use of facilities and services on alternative dispute resolution (ADR).
Arbitration and mediation are the two major forms of ADR which usually refers to any means of settling disputes outside of the courtroom, typically including early neutral evaluation, negotiation, conciliation, mediation and arbitration.
The MoUs can be seen as building blocks that are being put in place as Malaysia prepares to negotiate with the Asian African Legal Consultative Organisation (AALCO) to rename KLRCA as the Asian International Arbitration Centre.
KLRCA was established in 1978 under the auspices of the AALCO. It was the first regional centre established by AALCO in Asia to provide institutional support as a neutral and independent venue for the conduct of domestic and international arbitration proceedings in Asia.
In the separate MoU signing ceremonies, JIAC was represented by its secretary general Dr Christopher Malcolm while BCICAC was represented by its president and director Patrick Williams.
BCICAC is a non-profit organisation that provides alternative dispute resolution services to the commercial and international community. The Canadian outfit, which aims to provide a one-stop alternative dispute resolution service, offers fully administered arbitrations and mediations dispute resolution services for the domestic and international arbitration community.
It maintains panels of both international and domestic experts and offers disputants a choice of rules depending on the size and complexity of the matter.
Singapore has also been active in pushing forward its arbitration offerings. On Aug 10, Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) announced the opening of a representative office in Gurjarat, its second such office in India after its Mumbai representative office established in 2013.
The second office was established in the International Financial Services Centre in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT IFSC). The setting up follows an MoU last year between SIAC, Gujarat International Finance Tec-City Co Ltd and GIFT SEZ Ltd.
SIAC CEO Lim Seok Hui said the new office will allow SIAC to participate in GIFT’s economic development through the provision of dispute resolution mechanism to businesses and investors within GIFT IFSC.
In terms of its international administered caseload, SIAC said it is among the top five institutions in the world.
Kuala Lumpur is certainly facing stiff competition from Singapore and Hong Kong, two jurisdictions taking centre stage in Asia when it comes to arbitration.
Both jurisdictions scored a victory of sorts in 2008 when the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce decided to locate its Asian offices in both Hong Kong and Singapore.
It was certainly a boost to both SIAC and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre.
While they are giving KLRCA a run for their money, they do face certain challenges.
“Yet both Singapore and Hong Kong have their limitations, in spite of their best efforts,” according to an article by two lawyers from Rajah & Tann LLP, a Singapore-based full-service law firm, published in the Global Arbitration Review.
First, they noted that Singapore is a smaller jurisdiction, and it entered the international arbitration game later than Hong Kong, at a time when Hong Kong hosted a larger pool of arbitral expertise.
“Singapore does not have the economic locomotive power of China at its disposal, fuelling its efforts to be Asia’s arbitration hub of choice. Singapore also had to refute unsubstantiated claims that its judiciary is too closely identified with the country’s long-governing political party,” they argued.
For Hong Kong, it’s the China factor. Although, largely a boon for arbitration in Hong Kong, it comes with its own baggage.
“For a number of years — the repeated concern in some quarters has — paradoxically, been Hong Kong’s proximity to China, with doubts expressed over the prospects of a fair trial, including perceptions of bias in favour of China-related entities,” they argued in the article.
On its part, KLRCA has over the years developed new rules to cater to the
growing demands of the Islamic finance sector with the introduction of the KLRCA i-Arbitration Rules. It is also moving forward with the introduction of the KLRCA Fast Track Rules and the Mediation and Conciliation Rules.