The SIAC after 30 years: Arbitrating in the Switzerland of Asia
In 2021, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) was ranked as the most preferred arbitral institution in the Asia-Pacific and second worldwide.
This is no mean feat given that there has been stiff competition among the major arbitration hubs in the region since the early 2000s, with frequent comparisons being drawn between the SIAC and other institutions such as the Asian International Arbitration Centre, the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre and the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board.
How does the SIAC distinguish itself from its sibling institutions in the region?
Like many major arbitration hubs in Asia, Singapore has long been known for pro-arbitration laws and a judicial policy of minimal curial intervention, and the Singapore courts have constantly reiterated the high threshold for setting aside arbitration awards.
However, the SIAC also benefits from Singapore’s reputation as a ‘stable’ or ‘neutral’ place to conduct cross-border business in politically fraught times, particularly for transactions between Asian and Western entities. Given increasingly fraught US-China relations, the SIAC is often seen as a preferable alternative to competitors such as the HKIAC which are (sometimes unjustifiably) associated with the political turmoil of their geographical location. This perceived neutrality also makes Singapore and the SIAC a natural forum choice for investor-state disputes.
This effect can also be observed in the proliferation of technology companies relocating headquarters to Singapore and using Singapore law as the governing law of their contracts. Such corporate relocations naturally redirect more cross-border disputes to the SIAC and contribute to the SIAC’s image as a reliably unobjectionable venue for dispute resolution. The growing number of Web 3.0 companies in Singapore contributes also to raising the profile of Singapore legal practitioners as experts in such fields, increasing the attractiveness of Singapore as a forum in which related disputes can be heard.
Currently, an additional advantage of arbitrating in Singapore is its thus-far fairly consistent approach to dealing with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic: whereas other jurisdictions in Asia have experienced returning lockdowns, Singapore has recently re-opened its borders and removed most restrictions. read more