Guest Blog: ‘Exporting Japanese Legal Ideas to the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN’

Written by: Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (for MPI Hamburg Festchrift conference, 1-2 September 2022) [for the full paper, not just Part I below, you may try checking his webpages or contacting him]

[Abstract] Japan has long been a successful importer of western legal systems. The country has also exported its law to the rest of Asia for many years. Japan’s national ODA agency – the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – has been offering legal technical assistance projects since the 1990s. These initiatives have impacted the development of legal systems in Central and Southeast Asian countries. In particular, the outcome of the projects in the countries along the Mekong River is allegedly outstanding in terms of their comprehensive influence on the private laws of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The projects have arguably helped these host countries establish and reform a significant number of private law frameworks. Nevertheless, the extensive work by Japanese legal experts has been struggling with a low profile and a lack of international recognition, most likely due to a lag in anglophone scholarship that delivers a sufficiently detailed examination of the current private laws of those host countries and their operation in practice. This paper intends to address the gap by providing a critical (albeit preliminary and succinct) evaluation of how Japan’s legal technical assistance has led Japanese legal ideas to form part of the legal pluralism in the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN. It also encourages Japanese and local law experts to undertake further actions to re-assess the influence of Japanese law in these countries.

Part I. Introduction: Exporting Japanese Law to the Rest of Asia

Japan has long been perceived as a successful example of legal transplantation based on western models such as the legal systems of Germany, France and the US.[1] However, Japanese law has rarely treated as a source of legal ideas that are applicable outside Japan.[2] When it comes to Japan as a source of legal influence, commentators tend to focus on the country’s role in disseminating a modern German-style legal system to its neighbouring countries, but not on how Japanese law itself has influenced legal thinking in those countries.[3] Moreover, little attention is paid to how these countries are inspired by specific aspects of Japan’s success in importing western legal concepts because commentators are inclined to attribute the success to the specific institutions, culture and environment of Japan, perceiving Japan’s experience as inapplicable to other countries.[4] Those commentators writing in English appear to confine Japanese law and its legal institutions to Japan’s domestic domain.

However, Japanese law has extended its reach to Southeast Asia, as pointed out by several scholars in the last few decades. For instance, Tamura refers to Dr Tokichi Masao’s significant contribution to the codification of modern civil laws in Thailand during his tenure as the General Legal Adviser to the Kingdom of Siam in the early 20th century.[5] Tamura also reminds us that Thai commissioners adopted the (old) Japanese Civil Code as the foundation for their reception of the German Civil Code into the 1925 Revised Civil and Commercial Code of the Kingdom of Siam.[6] Moreover, Taylor highlights the importance of reviewing Japan’s legal technical assistance since the 1990s in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and beyond, suggesting that it reveals ‘ongoing tension between a western/globalized vision of rule-of-law assistance and the political imperatives at the national/local level’.[7] Along with Taylor’s thesis, this paper advocates for the need to examine the impact of Japanese positive law through the technical assistance in a recent hotspot for the global economy and comparative legal studies – the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN.[8]

These days, countries along the Mekong River, such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, have been gaining new economic prominence and increased global attention because of geopolitical tensions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the US-China trade war.[9] Many multinationals have been relocating their factories from China to those countries in the Mekong Subregion for cost reduction and risk aversion,[10] being attracted to the competitive labour costs, liberal economic policies, trade openness, social stability and growth potential of those countries.[11] Those foreign investors and experts working on the field of international business are so interested in the legal environments of the host states that much has been written about the legal and judicial systems of the countries along the Mekong River.[12]

Japan’s national ODA agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),[13] has since the 1990s been committing to the modernisation of law in the Mekong Subregion (and other countries) through its legal technical assistance projects.[14] Especially, Japanese legal advice provided through the assistance projects have heavily influenced the private laws of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to Japanese commentators[15] and mainstream media.[16] Nevertheless, we can rarely find corresponding observations or relevant discussions in anglophone scholarships or official documents issued by the governments of English speaking countries.[17] Thus, this paper critically and succinctly evaluates how Japanese legal ideas have shaped part of the legal pluralism in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, calling for further research to assess the influence of Japanese private law in these jurisdictions. It also discusses whether and how such research may help Japanese legal studies and local legal practice overcome challenges they have faced.


* Assistant Professor of ASEAN and Asia-Wide Integration, Universiti Brunei Darussalam; Affiliate, Centre for Asian and Pacific Law in the University of Sydney (CAPLUS); ANJeL-in-ASEAN Convenor, Australian Network for Japanese Law. The author acknowledges […]. Note that this paper is based on the following articles written by this author: Nobumichi Teramura, ‘Japan as a Source of Legal Ideas: A View from the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN’ (2021) 13 New Voices in Japanese Studies 19; and Nobumichi Teramura, ‘JICA and Regional Soft Power: Japan’s Legal and Judicial Development Project in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos since 1996’ (2022) IAS Working Paper Series <https://ias.ubd.edu.bn/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/working_paper_series_69.pdf> .

[1] Michele Graziadei, ‘Comparative Law, Transplants, and Receptions’ in Mathias Reimann and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), Comparative Law, Transplants, and Receptions (Oxford University Press 2019) 449; Mathias Siems, ‘The Power of Comparative Law: What Types of Units Can Comparative Law Compare’ (2019) 67 American Journal of Comparative Law 861, 865.

[2] Veronica Taylor, ‘Spectres of Comparison: Japanese Law through Multiple Lenses’ (2001) 6 Journal of Japanese Law 11.

[3] Chen Lei, ‘Contextualising Legal Transplant: China and Hong Kong’ in Pier Giuseppe Monateri (ed), Methods of Comparative Law (Edward Elgar Publishing 2012); Uwe Kischel, Comparative Law (Oxford University Press 2019) 55, 689, 699, 728–35; Graziadei, ‘Comparative Law, Transplants, and Receptions’ 450.

[4] Stephen Givens, ‘The Vagaries of Vagueness: An Essay on “Cultural” vs. “Institutional” Approaches to Japanese Law’ (2013) 22 Michigan State International Law Review 839; Giorgio Fabio Colombo, ‘Japan as a Victim of Comparative Law’ (2014) 22 Michigan State International Law Review 731.

[5] Shiori Tamura, ‘The Role of the Japanese Civil Code in the Codification in the Kingdom of Siam’ in Yuka Kaneko (ed), Civil Law Reforms in Post-Colonial Asia: Beyond Western Capitalism (Springer 2019) 54-55.

[6] Ibid 57ff.

[7] Veronica L Taylor, ‘Rule-of-law Assistance Discourse and Practice: Japanese Inflections’ in Amanda Perry Kessaris (ed), Law in the Pursuit of Development Principles into Practice? (Routledge-Cavendish 2009) 164.

[8] The Mekong Subregion consists of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand: Shawn Ho and Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, ‘Can ASEAN Play a Greater Role in the Mekong Subregion?’, (The Diplomat, 20 January 2019) <https://thediplomat.com/2019/01/can-asean-play-a-greater-role-in-the-mekong-subregion/>.

[9] Nobumichi Teramura, Shahla F Ali and Anselmo Reyes, ‘Expanding Asia-Pacific Frontiers for International Dispute Resolution: Conclusions and Recommendations’ in Luke Nottage and others (eds), New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Wolters Kluwer 2021) 356.

[10] John Boudreau and Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, ‘Rural Vietnam Booms With Jobs From Apple-Led Move in Supply Chains’, (Bloomberg, 26 October 2020) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2020-10-26/supply-chains-latest-apple-shift-means-boom-in-rural-vietnam>; John Reed, ‘Vietnam Prepares for Supply Chain Shift from China’, (Financial Times, 28 December 2020) <https://www.ft.com/content/e855b706-e431-4fc5-9b0a-05d93ba1bcbe>

[11] See, eg, Swiss Re Institute, ‘De-risking Global Supply Chains: Rebalancing to Strengthen Resilience’ (2020) <https://www.swissre.com/institute/research/sigma-research/sigma-2020-06.html> ; OECD, ‘Trends in Foreign Investment and Trade in Lao PDR’ in OECD (ed), OECD Investment Policy Reviews: Lao PDR (OECD Publishing 2017).

[12] See generally The MLS Academic Research Service, ‘Southeast Asian Region Countries’ Law’ (Melbourne Law School, 2022)  <https://unimelb.libguides.com/asianlaw> accessed 29 June 2022.

[13] JICA is an independent administrative institution under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan.

[14] Luke Nottage, ‘The Development of Comparative Law in Japan’ in Mathias Reimann and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press 2019) 204-207; Zentaro Kitagawa, ‘Development of Comparative Law in East Asia’ in Mathias Reimann and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (Oxford University Press 2006) 254-256; MOJ, ‘Legal Technical Assistance Activities by the International Cooperation Department ~Contributing to the World Is Japan’s Strength!~’ (n.d.)  <https://www.moj.go.jp/EN/housouken/houso_lta_lta.html> accessed 29 June 2022.

[15] Yuka Kaneko, ‘Japan’s Civil Code Drafting Support for Socialist Reform Countries: Diversity of Normative Choice’ in Yuka Kaneko (ed), Civil Law Reforms in Post-Colonial Asia: Beyond Western Capitalism (Springer 2019) 155.

[16] Shuichiro Sese, ‘Japan’s Judicial Diplomacy at Crossroads as Laos Enacts Civil Code’, (Nikkei Asia, 21 May 2020) <https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Japan-s-judicial-diplomacy-at-crossroads-as-Laos-enacts-civil-code> (noting that ‘Laos became the third country in Southeast Asia, after Vietnam and Cambodia, to introduce a civil code with Japanese support’).

[17] See Section 4 below.

Japan’s Influence in Comparative Law: An Australian Perspective

The Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg is hosting a Festschrift conference for longstanding ANJeL advisor and personal friend, Prof Harald Baum, over 1-2 September 2022 on the theme of “Comparing and Transferring Law and Legal Expertise: The Role of Japan”. My presentation and essay honouring Prof Harald Baum begins by locating Australia’s burgeoning Japanese law engagement since the 1980s amidst multiple “worlds” or genres of Japanese legal studies worldwide, and the ambivalence of hitching Japanese legal studies to the wider rising star of “Asian law” engagement (Part I [reproduced below]). It focuses on the unique cross-institutional Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) that has promoted comparisons with, and understanding of, Japanese law since its establishment in 2002, including sustained support from Harald Baum (Part II). The essay surveys achievements and challenges in research, funded projects and publications in Japanese law (Part III), teaching and learning initiatives about Japanese law (Part IV) and wider community engagement (especially between the legal professions in Japan and Australia) also facilitated by ANJeL (Part V). It concludes that Japanese law engagement has remained surprisingly strong, despite the attraction of diversifying into Asian law more widely, although both fields are facing challenges nurturing the “next generation” of experts in Australia. 

I. Introduction: Consolidating Japanese Law in Australia

Japan has long been an attractive subject for comparative law. It first provided a rich case study of successfully “importing” law – first on Chinese, then Western models – interacting with indigenous norms and institutions. Japan then attracted interest for “exporting” law – in parts of Asia in the colonial era, to the West since its economic heyday in the 1980s, and to Asia and elsewhere over the last few decades as part of Japan’s overseas development aid programs. Japan has also been central to developing, and often empirically testing, theories as to how law interacts with society.[1] As is now well known, the main contenders are that “the Japanese don’t like law” (the culturalist theory), “they can’t like law” (the institutional barriers theory), “they are made not to like law” (the elite management theory), “they like predictable law” (the economic rationalist theory, implying instead that the legal system works well), or some hybrid approach.[2]

The world of Japanese law scholarship, however, has divided into several sub-worlds.[3] First, “Japanese law” comprises studies published in English, mainly by those versed in the Anglo-American legal tradition. The US sub-tradition – led by its elite law schools – favours analyses that engage big theoretical issues, often influenced by disciplines other than law (such as cultural studies, politics or economics), and related empirical work. Topics for analysis also tend to be quite wide-ranging. The English sub-tradition favours more black-letter analyses, with more focus on practical issues particularly in business law. Secondly, the German-language scholarship comparing Japanese law, “Japanisches Recht”, is likewise often quite black-letter in its approach but also covers quite a wide range of topics, thanks to a shared legal history. Thirdly, we have studies of “nihon-ho” written in Japanese, mostly by Japanese scholars for a Japanese audience, which of course cover all topics in Japanese law. The analyses tend to be mostly black-letter law but alongside a rich tradition of legal theory and sociology, sometimes impacting on legal analysis directly, and sometimes impacting indirectly as some Japanese scholars spend time in or with US law schools.

Australia generally follows the English sub-tradition, and its related variant of the common law based on more formal reasoning patterns and supporting legal institutions.[4] Yet by the 1980s, when Japanese law scholarship started to take off in Australia, it had already come under more influence generally from US approaches to legal analysis. (Scholarship in England itself was also developing more emphasis on “law in context” and substantive reasoning.) From the outset, therefore, Japanese law studies in Australia tended to combine both black-letter and contextualist analyses – albeit arguably with more theoretical ecumenicalism than say than in the US.[5] For practical reasons, namely burgeoning trade and investment relations, the focus did tend to be on business law topics. However, as bilateral relations broadened (including more geopolitical links and shared involvement in international treaty regimes), and as the numbers of Japanese law scholars and publications gradually grew, a wider array of Japanese law topics were researched and taught. This broadening and accretion arguably generated more influence from Japanese law for students, legal professionals, and makers of law and policy in Australia.

However, Australia engaged in, and was more impacted by, Japanese law scholarship from the 1980s, during the same period as Australia also ramped up its studies of Asian legal systems more generally. This was a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allowed scholars to get university appointments and research grants by invoking the broader, and therefore more appealing, category of “Asian law”. Sometimes there were good methodological reasons for emphasising the wider category, given the historical or structural links between Japanese and other Asian legal systems, but there were also practical advantages for securing resources to pursue the study of Japan “within Asia”. As can happen with new fields of law, history or other fields of scholarship,[6] some commentary emphasised how “Asian law” was distinct from the field of comparative law. However, other work argued that the latter had become more interdisciplinary in approach as well, certainly by the turn of the 20th century.[7]

On the other hand, hitching Japanese law scholarship to the rising star of “Asian law” also had potential downsides. Research and publications could end up being directed at Asian legal systems, “hollowing out” Japanese law scholarship and teaching. Coupling Japanese with Asian law also risked undermining a Japan focus and commitment by Australian law schools if and when they reduced their enthusiasm for Asian law. Indeed, a recent short survey of Asian law scholarship for the Asian Studies Association of Australia suggests that that day is already nigh, arguably reflecting a reduction in government and other support across universities for Asia-focused initiatives more generally. Nonetheless, that analysis acknowledges that Asian law expertise remains underpinned by university centres or other institutional arrangements, which are difficult to unwind, thus making its impact more sustainable even if individual scholars find fewer appointments, research grants or teaching opportunities.[8] Even if the focus on Asian law does diminish in Australia, therefore, the institutional entrenchment of Japanese law may shield it from diminishing relevance and influence.

This essay therefore concentrates on a key organisation that has promoted comparisons with, and understanding of, Japanese law over the last two decades, catching the Asian law wave and hopefully riding it out reasonably well if and when that wave fades away. Supported from the outset by Harald Baum, the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) has hopefully created sufficient critical mass to ensure that Japanese law continues to have widespread impact not just across academic research in Australia, but also to a significant extent within the legal profession and even some aspects of the wider community. Maintaining a solid base for the “export” of Japanese law into these sectors in Australia, in turn, should allow Japanese counterparts to productively “re-import” elements of Australian law and practice.


[1] L. Nottage, The Development of Comparative Law in Japan, in: M. Reimann and R. Zimmerman (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (2019) 201, with a manuscript version at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3276469.

[2] M. Abe and L. Nottage, Japanese Law, in: J. Smits (ed.) Encyclopedia of Comparative Law (2020) (forthcoming), with a manuscript version of this contribution for a third edition at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3672112.

[3] L. Nottage, Japanisches Recht, Japanese Law and Nihon-ho: Towards New Transnational Collaboration in Research and Teaching, Journal of Japanese Law 2001, 12, 17; T. Ginsburg, L. Nottage and H. Sono (eds.), The Multiple Worlds of Japanese Law: Disjunctions and Conjunctions (Victoria, Canada 2001). Compare also H. Baum, Teaching and Researching Japanese Law: A German Perspective, in: S. Steele and K. Taylor (eds.) Legal Education in Asia: Globalization, Change and Contexts (2011) 89

[4] See generally L. Nottage, Form, Substance and Neo-Proceduralism in Comparative Contract Law: The Law in Books and the Law in Action in England, New Zealand, Japan and the U.S. (Ph.D in Law thesis, Victoria University of Wellington, 2002), available via http://hdl.handle.net/10063/778.

[5] M. Smith, Australian Perspectives on Asian Law: Directions for the Next Decade, in: V. Taylor (ed.) Asian Laws Through Australian Eyes (2007) 3. As an example of more black-letter Japanese law works led by Australia-based scholars, Veronica Taylor took over editing and writing for the CCH Japan Business Law Guide loose-leaf series from 2000-2006, followed by Luke Nottage until 2009. A volume comprising four of its chapters was also spun off as CCH Business Law in Japan, Volume 1 (2008, Singapore/Tokyo: CCH, ISBN 978-4-915845-08-6).

[6] Examples include how the leaders of the Enlightenment distinguished the preceding supposed “Dark Ages”, or how promoters of mediation differentiated that process as more purely consensual and hence more genuine “alternative dispute resolution” compared to arbitration: L. Nottage, Is (International) Commercial Arbitration ADR?, The Arbitrator and Mediator 2002, 20, 83, also at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=838044.

[7] Compare V. Taylor, Beyond Legal Orientalism, in: V. Taylor (ed.) Asian Laws Through Australian Eyes (2007) 47 with L. Nottage, Comparative Law, Asian Law, and Japanese Law, Journal of Japanese Law 2003, 8, 41 also at https://ssrn.com/abstract=837964.

[8]  M. Crouch, ‘Asian Law in Australian Universities: Research centres as critical institutional commitments’, Asian Studies (Blog Post, 21 April 2020) https://asaa.asn.au/asian-law-in-australian-universities-research-centres-as-critical-institutional-commitments/.

Commercial Dispute Resolution and Arbitration in Japan

Written by: Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura (unfootnoted draft for Sarah Biddulph and Kathryn Taylor (eds) Elgar Concise Encyclopedia of Asian Law, Elgar, forthcoming)

 “Commercial Dispute Resolution and Arbitration in Japan”

For: Elgar Concise Encyclopedia of Asian Law

Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura

1. Civil Procedure and Litigation

The Civil Procedure Code, enacted as the framework for civil litigation in the late 19th century as Japan adopted a modern Western legal system, derived mainly from German law. The Code  experienced significant reforms after WW2 (adopting the more “adversarial principle”) and 1998 (based partly on some emerging court practices, to streamline identification of legal issues and related evidence-taking, as well as new small claims procedures and other provisions to reduce delays).[1] The 1999-2001 Justice System Reform Council Recommendations resulted in introducing expert commissioners to advise judges in complex cases, an advance notice of suit option, and other “micro”-level reforms, but also expanded numbers of bengoshi lawyers and judges aiming for “macro”-level impact.[2] Those Recommendations sought mainly to reduce perceived “structural barriers” to initiate lawsuits, which arguably underpin a comparatively low civil litigation rate in Japan especially over the 1950s-70s. However, some instead argue that this low propensity to sue is related to “cultural” factors like preferences to avoid confrontation and fear of “losing face” (although this may be related to risk-averseness especially in larger organisations), or a rational avoidance of litigation costs by settling in the shadow of comparatively predictable substantive law in Japan.[3]

Japan’s still predominantly civil law tradition means that civil litigation maintains various features not usually found in common law systems. These include limited pre-trial discovery (although some analogues[4]), non-continuous trials (though delays decreased from 2000s), no juries (only for some serious criminal cases, reintroduced from 2009), active case management by judges (including right not duty to “clarify” the law especially for self-represented litigants, and encouragement of settlement), three career judges hearing complex civil cases at first instance, and no dissenting opinions published (other than in the highest Supreme Court).[5]

2. Mediation

In Japan, mediation is mostly court-annexed, with tradition going back to the pre-WW2 era (eg farm tenancy disputes,[6] although such disputes were often settled through direct and informal negotiations between land owners and tenants). Parties may choose between two main types of mediation. One is conducted by the judge(s) assigned the case, although in larger courts like Tokyo and Osaka, the case may be referred to a division where mediation is attempted by other judges, and then returned to the original judge(s) if settlement fails. The second type is mediation under the 1951 Civil Conciliation Act, mandated by the court or more typically agreed by parties: a conciliation committee consisting of a judge and two non-judges having expert knowledge and experience lead the mediation settlements. In both scenarios, it is quite common among the judicial mediators to caucus separately with each party (unlike eg Germany, where judges encourage settlement in open court).[7]

The government also provides mediation service. For instance, some formal government-supported mediation is available, eg for environmental pollution or neighbourhood disputes (eg noise),[8] or recently for financial institutions.[9] Informal government-supported mediation schemes are available too for consumer disputes, through Consumer Lifestyle Centre. The government also promoted criteria (such as independence of formal mediators from any industry associations) for Product Liability (PL) ADR Centres, created from the mid-1990s.[10]

Due to very high public trust in the court-annexed and government-supported schemes, government financial support for them and perhaps still comparatively fewer disputes, Japan has less privately-supplied mediation services. The Justice Reform Council perceived this as another structural barrier, so the 2004 Act on Promotion of Use of Alternative Dispute Resolution encouraged private mediation through government certification to build trust and visibility, allowing such organisations to make limitation periods tolled during their mediations (unlike non-certified mediation suppliers).[11] Many got certified, both some old institutions (like Bar Associations providing mediation services) and quite a few new ones (such as Japan Sport Arbitration Agency),[12] but caseloads have not increased much especially for commercial dispute resolution.[13]

3. Arbitration

Arbitration legislation was also initially also derived originally from Germany: the arbitration section in its Civil Procedure Code also from the late 19th century. This legislation remained basically unchanged in Japan’s 1998 civil procedure reform, despite an earlier push from academics to adopt the 1985 UNCITRAL Model Law template that was starting to spread especially around the Asia-Pacific region. Arbitration was seen as less important compared to improving the civil litigation and mediation environment because it was little used domestically (except eg a scheme for disputes between construction companies and the government).[14] For international transactions, Japanese commercial parties seemed quite content to agree to arbitration in foreign seats, perhaps in exchange for other benefits received in contract negotiations. Part of the thinking may also have been they were unlikely to get involved in (expensive) formal dispute resolution and, in particular, to initiate claims. Hence some Japanese parties and their legal advisors established the comparatively unusual practice of “finger-pointing clauses” in arbitration agreements, designating the defendant’s domicile as the seat of arbitration.

Accordingly, the caseloads of the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA) and Tokyo Maritime Arbitration Commission (TOMAC), as well as other international arbitrations with seat in Japan (eg under the ICC Arbitration Rules or ad hoc UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules), remained few even over 2000s, while Asian centres in Singapore, China and HK recorded large increases in arbitration cases. Nevertheless, more foreign counsel and arbitrators joined the arbitration market especially after the 2003 reform of the Act on Special Measures Concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers (the Foreign Lawyers Act) that allowed full profit sharing with international firms established in Japan. There also remained a salient practice of Arb-Med, with arbitral tribunals actively encouraging settlement, especially when Japanese parties, counsel and/or arbitrators were involved.[15]

As part of Justice System Reform Council Recommendations, however, the 2003 Arbitration Act was enacted based on the 1985 UNCITRAL Model Law. Some tweaks to that template included extending it from international to domestic arbitration cases (hence, allowing no appeals for errors of law), adding criminal sanctions for corrupt arbitrators (to build trust in arbitration), and requiring express written consent from parties for Arb-Med (given natural justice concerns). Case law has been generally pro-arbitration, enforcing most foreign arbitral agreements and awards in accordance with the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards.[16] However, not many judgments, including those related to international arbitration, are translated into English. Few judges give speeches promoting Japan as a seat for arbitration or go on to become arbitrators after retirement — instead, most have been professors and (increasingly) local or foreign lawyers —  unlike in common law jurisdictions like Singapore or Australia where (former) judges play more active roles in promoting arbitration generally. JCAA and TOMAC did amend their Rules around the time of the 2003 Act and subsequently from time to time. However, they continued to mostly administer cases involving at least one Japanese party, without marketing their centres aggressively to see large increases in caseloads.[17]

Since 2018, nonetheless, we have witnessed an elevated political push for Japan to catch up with international competitors and become more of an international dispute resolution hub regionally. Along with the Japan International Mediation Centre (JIMC) Kyoto (an earlier academic / law society joint venture), the Japan International Dispute Resolution Centre (JIDRC) was established with government-supported facilities in Osaka and then Tokyo, with quite intense marketing despite the pandemic. A new Tokyo-based institution, International Arbitration Centre in Tokyo (IACT), focuses on intellectual property arbitration. These governmental initiatives prompted JCAA to enact three sets of new Rules from 2019. Amendments to allow more foreign law representation in foreign-related arbitrations seated in Japan.[18] Moreover, formal consultation was launched in 2020, albeit belatedly by Asia-Pacific standards, to revise the 2003 Arbitration Act along more of the lines of the 2006 UNCITRAL Model Law amendments especially on tribunal-issued interim measures.[19]  This is important especially for marketing Japan as a seat, although the 2003 Act had already anticipated a few provisions on interim measures that were being discussed in UNCITRAL and incorporated into their 2006 Model Law amendments.[20]

Those new public and private initiatives should help further reduce structural barriers to arbitrating in Japan, but it is still unlikely that arbitration will ever become popular for domestic dispute resolution. Moreover, it is too early to tell whether these efforts will make Japan a significantly more popular seat for international arbitrations.


[1] Yasuhei Taniguchi, ‘The 1996 Code of Civil Procedure of Japan-A Procedure for the Coming Century?’ (1997) 45 The American Journal of Comparative Law 767.

[2] Translated at https://japan.kantei.go.jp/policy/sihou/singikai/990612_e.html; Luke Nottage, ‘Civil Procedure Reforms in Japan: The Latest Round’ (2005) 22 Ritsumeikan Law Review 81,  available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=837864.

[3] Masaki Abe and Luke Nottage, ‘Japanese Law’ in Jan Smits (ed), Elgar Encyclopedia of Comparative Law (3rd edn, Edward Elgar Publishing 2022), available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3672112 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3672112 .

[4] Andrew M. Pardieck, ‘Discovery in Japan’ (2021) 31 Indiana International & Comparative Law Review 61.

[5] See generally eg Shusuke Kakiuchi, ‘Access to justice in Japan’ (2007) Japanese Law Resources <http://www.asianlii.org/jp/other/JPLRes/2007/1.html> .

[6] Dimitri Vanoverbeke, Community and State in the Japanese Farm Village: Farm Tenancy Conciliation, 1924-1938 (Leuven University Press 2004). “

[7] Yasunobu Sato, Commercial Dispute Processing and Japan (Kluwer Academic Publishing 2001); Harald Baum, ‘Mediation in Japan. Development, Forms, Regulation and Practice of Out-of-Court Dispute Resolution’ in Klaus J. Hopt and Felix Steffek (eds), Mediation: Principles and Regulation in Comparative Perspective (Oxford University Press 2012).

[8] Mark D. West, ‘The Resolution of Karaoke Disputes: The Calculus of Institutions and Social Capital’ (2002) 28 The Journal of Japanese Studies 301 (demonstrating the success of the Internal Affairs Ministry’s Pollution Complaint Counsellor in dealing with noise complaints); Shiro Kawashima, ‘A Survey of Environmental Law and Policy in Japan’ (1994) 20 North Carolina Journal of International Law and Commercial Regulation 231; Luke Nottage, ‘The Cultural (Re)Turn in Japanese Law Studies’ (2009) 39 Victoria University of Wellington Law Review 755.

[9] Tomohiko Maeda and Andrew M. Pardieck, ‘ADR In Japan’s Financial Markets & the Rule of Law’ (2018) 10 Northeastern University Law Review 400.

[10] Luke Nottage and Yoshitaka Wada, ‘Japan’s New Product Liability ADR Centers: Bureaucratic, Industry, or Consumer Informalism?’ (1998) 3 Journal of Japanese Law 40.

[11] Aya Yamada, ‘ADR in Japan: Does The New Law Liberalize ADR From Historical Shackles or Legalize It?’ (2009) 2 Contemporary Asia Arbitration Journal 1.

[12] As of 9 April 2022, there are 163 certified organisations: Ministry of Justice, ‘The List of Certified ADR Providers [in Japanese]’ (n.d.)  <https://www.moj.go.jp/KANBOU/ADR/jigyousya/ninsyou-index.html> accessed 9 April 2022.

[13] James Claxton, Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura, ‘Disruption as a Catalyst for International Dispute Services in Japan: No Longer Business as Usual?’ in Luke Nottage and others (eds), New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Wolters Kluwer 2021).

[14] Tatsuya Nakamura and Luke Nottage, ‘Arbitration in Japan’ in Shahla F. Ali and Tom Ginsburg (eds), International Commercial Arbitration in Asia (3rd edn, Juris 2013).

[15] Luke Nottage, International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration: Australia and Japan in Regional and Global Contexts (Edward Elgar Publishing 2021), Chapter 4.

[16] Yasuhei Taniguchi and Tatsuya Nakamura, National Report for Japan (2019 through 2022), in Lise Bosman (ed), ICCA International Handbook on Commercial Arbitration (ICCA & Kluwer Law International 2020, Supplement No. 120, February 2022) at 36-39.

[17] Nobumichi Teramura and Luke Nottage, ‘Arbitration Reform in Japan: Reluctant Legislature and Institutional Challenges’ in Weixia Gu and Anselmo Reyes (eds), Arbitration Reform in Asia (Hart Publishing 2018).

[18] Junya Naito and Ryo Otobe, ‘The Act on Special Measures concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers —Recent Developments toward Internationalization’ (2020) 1 Japan Commercial Arbitration Journal 34.

[19] WeiJian Teo and Yusuke Iwata, ‘The Rise of Japan Arbitration: A Balance to the Common Law Forces of International Arbitration in Asia?’, (Kluwer Arbitration Blog, 6 July 2021) <http://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2021/07/06/the-rise-of-japan-arbitration-a-balance-to-the-common-law-forces-of-international-arbitration-in-asia/>.

[20] James Claxton, Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura, ‘Developing Japan as a Regional Hub for International Dispute Resolution: Dream Come True or Daydream?’ (2019) 47 Journal of Japanese Law 109.

“Declining Professional Diversity in International Arbitration”

By: Dr Nobumichi Teramura (Assistant Professor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam; Affiliate, Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney), Dr Luke Nottage (Professor of Law, University of Sydney; Special Counsel, Williams Trade Law) and Mr James Tanna (Research Assistant, University of Sydney)[1]

On 20 June 2016, the Australian Centre for International Arbitration (ACICA) signed the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge, to improve the profile and representation of women in arbitration.[2] Since then, we have witnessed the international arbitration (IA) community’s significant collective progress towards greater diversity, especially over the last few years. These initiatives include Racial Equality for Arbitration Lawyers (REAL), the Rising Arbitrators Initiative (RAI) and the appointment of first woman President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. We should certainly celebrate this advancement of equality in race, age and gender, although the main beneficiaries of the diminishing gender gap are reportedly white women based in Europe or North America.[3]

In addition, we should be aware that the burgeoning debate seems to leave out discussion of a further area where diversity is lacking in the IA community – an analysis of professional diversity. While the key groups and publication outlets for IA are dominated nowadays by those practising primarily as full-time lawyers, there is hardly any awareness or sustained discussion about the limitations of overlooking diversity of professional backgrounds, perhaps partly because arbitration rules usually do not require arbitrators to have any specific experience, training or qualifications. Nonetheless, for example, the ACICA Guidance Note on the Appointment of Arbitrators prompts parties to consider ‘diversity and issues of equal representation, such as gender, age, geography, culture, ethnicity, and professional background of the arbitrator’.[4]

Involving more non-lawyer practitioners (NLPs, such as engineers, architects, accountants) or those who are primarily academics could significantly reduce the persistent formalisation in IA.[5] Expanding professional diversity could also lead to other benefits, including indeed more gender diversity, given that academia does not have the same non-linear remuneration structures for lawyers that disadvantage career progression for many women.[6] These and other issues associated with professional diversity are outlined in our recent research article entitled “Lawyers and Non-Lawyers in International Arbitration: Discovering Diminishing Diversity”.[7] That research article also empirically analyses the ways legal practitioners have come to prevail across the key nodes of influence within the IA sector. The rest of this blog post introduces our key empirical findings.[8]

Associations and Institutions Promoting Arbitration

First, we examined key groups that promote IA but do not themselves administer arbitration cases. The influential groups examined were the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) and the International Bar Association (IBA).

The ICCA Board as of September 2021 largely comprised individuals falling primarily in the category of practising “Lawyer” (84%), executives of “International or Arbitral Organisations” (IAOs, typically leaders within arbitral institutions) (5%), “Mixed” (typically those having multiple professional engagements) (5%) and “Academic” (4%, essentially full-time). We also examined the composition of ICCA Taskforces for all years: Lawyer (61%), IAOs (18%), lawyers and NLPs working in Litigation Finance (7%), Mixed (7%) and Academic (6%). Authors of entries in the Young ICCA Blog between 19 October 2010 and 17 February 2021 fell into the categories of Lawyer (86%), Academic (10%) and Mixed (2%). Analysis of presentations in ICCA Congresses and related chapters in the ICCA Congress Series over the last 30 years also indicated the growing prevalence of Lawyers (60% over the entire period) within ICCA publications, and in parallel reflecting only small proportions of IAOs (14%), Academic (12%) and Mixed (9%).

The lack of diversity in professional backgrounds was also salient in the other groups. For example, the vast majority of CIArb Board Members in 2021 were from the Lawyer category (78%), in contrast to NLPs making up 15% of the Board (despite the earlier influence of NLPs in CIArb until around the 1990s) and no members falling into the Academic category. Speakers in CIArb Webinars from July 2020 to March 2021 comprised Lawyers (75%), Academic (12%), NLPs (9%) and IAOs (2%).

Meanwhile, the data is comparable at the IBA. As for the committee membership for proliferating IBA instruments, such as the Evidence-Taking Rules, there was an even heavier prevalence of Lawyers (95%) although this was less surprising given that the IBA is essentially a global federation of lawyers’ associations. Similarly, for IBA webinars, mostly from 2020 but also some from 2021, 94% of the key participants were Lawyer; only 4% could be coded as IAOs, while 2% were Academic.

Arbitration Institutions and Their Leaders

Next, we analysed the international and regional arbitration institutions having high caseloads and/or those deemed reasonably representative of civil or common law traditions and geographical diversity. These were ACICA, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the Swiss Arbitration Centre, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR), the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKAIC), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC), the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA), the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB), the Thai Arbitration Institute (TAI) and the newer Thai Arbitration Centre (THAC).

To discern professional diversity within the leadership of these arbitration centres, we looked overall at the membership of various Boards, Councils, Committees, Taskforces and Courts as of 2021. The combined analysis confirmed Lawyers’ predominance (76%), as well as the comparatively small ratios of NLPs (11%), Academics (6%) and IAOs (1%).[9] We further investigated speakers and moderators at webinars and conferences organised by those arbitration centres in 2020 and the first half of 2021: Lawyers (80% in 2020 and 83% in 2021), IAOs (8% and 4% respectively), Academics (5% and 6%) and NLPs (4% and 5%).   

Indicative Journals, Books and Blogs

We also considered major journals for international arbitration, complementing an earlier analysis of periodicals and other publications.[10] These were Arbitration International (associated with the LCIA), Arbitration: The International Journal of Arbitration, Mediation and Dispute Management (CIArb), Asian International Arbitration Journal (SIAC) and the Journal of International Arbitration (published by Wolters Kluwer). Again, the overall extent of Lawyer involvement was striking. Editors of these four journals as of September 2021 were mostly Lawyer (75%), although there were somewhat more Academic (22%) than say for the leadership of the arbitration institutions as examined above. Then, we examined all the discernible articles (other than book reviews) published in the four journals from the late 1980s, when three were being published and some debate emerged about the role of NLPs in arbitration.[11] Sampling the journals essentially at five-yearly intervals (in 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019-21) gave the following proportions for authors: Lawyer (71%), Academic (19%), IAOs (2%), NLPs (4%) and Mixed (3%). Analysing authorship categories over time found that absolute numbers and proportions of articles written by Lawyers had grown, especially over 2000-2010.

We further studied editors and authors of influential books and blogs. For books, for example, we investigated the International Arbitration Law Library Series published by Wolters Kluwer, with 59 titles since 1993 when the first volume of the Series was published. Coding editors and authors of these volumes and individual chapters demonstrated the dominance of Lawyer (50%) although a significant minority were from Academic (39%). Other professions such as IAOs, NLPs and Mixed occupied relatively small proportions (3%, 2% and 6%, respectively). On blogs, our analysis concentrated on Kluwer Arbitration Blog (KAB), as one of the most well established and widely read arbitration-related blogs. Comparing the KAB’s editorial team for August 2021 and 2018 (the latest year for which the Wayback Machine online allowed us to access a snapshot of the list of all editors), 80% were Lawyers and 20% were Academics. In addition, we studied backgrounds of blog authors in February, June and November in 2009, 2014 and 2019-21. The sampling found a similar prevalence of postings by Lawyer (79%), some by Academic (16%) and very occasionally by authors from an IAO (2%).

Concluding Remarks

The phenomena confirmed by our empirical research are clear: the entrenchment of lawyers through the world of IA, and the corresponding decline in involvement and influence of full-time academics and especially other NLPs. This growing lack of diversity in professional backgrounds contrasts with gender diversity, which has experienced some statistical improvements in appointments of arbitrators or other leadership positions in some arbitration centres.[12] One response to that ongoing “diversity deficit” might be to encourage more involvement of academics and NLPs in the leadership and activities of the significant arbitration associations and centres, as well as leading publication venues.[13] Such a response will help the IA sector develop diversity of perspectives because, as Joshua Karton suggests, such diversity may be enhanced by arbitrators with varied experiences who may think differently from the arbitration mainstream.[14] At least, we need more discussion and ongoing debate about the remarkable and continuing decline in professional diversity within IA.


[1] This article is a version of Nobumichi Teramura, Luke Nottage and James Tanna, ‘Declining Professional Diversity in International Arbitration’, Kluwer Arbitration Blog (Blog Post, 3 April 2022) <http://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2022/04/03/declining-professional-diversity-in-international-arbitration/>,

[2] ACICA, ‘Media Release: Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration Signs Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge’ (20 June 2016) <https://acica.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Media-Release-Equal-Representation-in-Arbitration-Pledge.pdf>.

[3] Kiran Nasir Gore, ‘2021 In Review: Continued Strides in Favor of Diversity and Sustainable Development in International Arbitration’, Kluwer Arbitration Blog (Blog Post, 27 February 2022) < http://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2022/02/27/2021-in-review-continued-strides-in-favor-of-diversity-and-sustainable-development-in-international-arbitration/>.

[4] See <https://acica.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/ACICA-Guidance-Note-on-the-Appointment-of-Arbitrators-FF1.pdf> (emphasis added), available via <https://acica.org.au/acica-practice-procedures-toolkit/>.

[5] Nobumichi Teramura, Ex Aequo et Bono as a Response to the ‘Over-Judicialisation’ of International Commercial Arbitration (Wolters Kluwer, 2020).

[6] Claudia Goldin, Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity (Princeton University Press, 2021).

[7] Luke Nottage, Nobumichi Teramura and James Tanna, ‘Lawyers and Non-Lawyers in International Arbitration: Discovering Diminishing Diversity’ (September 2021) manuscript at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3926914>. A shorter version of that paper is also forthcoming in Shahla Ali, Filip Balcerzak, Giorgio Fabio Colombo and Joshua Karton (eds), Diversity in International Arbitration: Why It Matters and How to Sustain It (Elgar, 2022).

[8] As elaborated in the research article, including the methodological Appendix, we basically categorised all individuals in accordance with their primary profession at the time they were a member of the relevant arbitral organisation, the relevant publication was written, or the relevant presentation was given.

[9] The proportion for ACICA was higher in 2021: see Luke Nottage, Nobumichi Teramura and James Tanna, ‘Lawyers and Non-Lawyers in International Arbitration: Discovering Diminishing Diversity’ (n 7) 24. Tracking its Board size and composition over time, see also Luke Nottage and Richard Garnett, “The Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration” in Helene Ruiz Fabri (gen ed) Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law(Oxford University Press, 2019) via https://www.mpi.lu/mpeipro/.

[10] Luke Nottage, ‘International Arbitration and Society at Large’ in Andrea Bjorklund, Franco Ferrari and Stefan Kroll (eds), Cambridge Compendium of International Commercial and Investment Arbitration (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2022), manuscript at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3116528>.

[11] The Asian International Arbitration Journal was published from 2005.

[12] ICCA, Report of the Cross-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity in Arbitral Appointments and Proceedings (The ICCA Reports No 8, 2020).

[13] Andrea K Bjorklund et al, ‘The Diversity Deficit in International Investment Arbitration’ (2020) 21(2-3) The Journal of World Investment & Trade 410.

[14] Joshua Karton, ‘Diversity in Four Dimensions: Conceptualizing Diversity in International Arbitration’ (March 2022) <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4054031>.

“The Interface of Inquests and Consumer Law and Policy: 2021 NSW Coronial Inquest Findings into the 2017 Death of a Honda Driver from a Takata Airbag”

Abstract: A coronial inquest is an inquisitorial fact-finding investigation into causes and manner of deaths that are eg violent, unusual, or from unknown causes. The coroner may also make recommendations to improve health and safety related to the death investigated.[1] Sometimes such inquests attract considerable media and public attention, although usually not as much as say a royal or other commission of inquiry. As such, inquests could influence the implementation or enactment of consumer product safety law. Yet there is very little research into this interface. An interesting recent case study comes from a New South Wales coronial inquest over 2019-2021 into a tragic death in July 2017 associated with Australia’s largest-ever vehicle recall, which uncovered poor practices by the manufacturer (Honda Australia) as well as the regulators.

The recall ultimately involved 3 million vehicles in Australia originally affected due to defective airbags manufactured by Japanese firm Takata, which started to explode and kill or injure drivers abroad from 2015 and ended up being subjected to a mandatory recall order issued in February 2018 by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC). By March 2021 the ACCC reported that these 3 million vehicles had been successfully recalled by manufacturers, although: “around 312,000 vehicles have been deemed to be compliant with the recall although they have not had their airbags replaced … vehicles which have been scrapped, stolen or unregistered for more than two years, or where consumers did not respond or were not contactable after repeated contacts through different channels. Globally, these Takata airbags have been associated with over 350 serious injuries and 33 deaths. This includes one death in Sydney in July 2017 and one serious injury in Darwin in April 2017. Two injuries were also reported following an accident in Sydney in August 2020.”[2]

Many problems had been increasingly highlighted by local media and consumer experts or groups[3] concerning the Takata airbag recalls process in Australia. There were also some media reports towards the start[4] and during some hearings[5] of the NSW coronial inquest into the death of Mr Huy Neng Ngo in July 2017, killed by a Takata airbag that had still not been replaced by Honda Australia.[6] Curiously, however, there has been almost no media reporting of the findings and recommendations for avoiding further deaths, released on 19 November 2021 by NSW Deputy Coroner, Magistrate E. Truscott.[7] I became aware of the extensive report recently as I had been asked by the NSW Crown Solicitors’ Office in mid-2019 to provide a witness statement to the inquest. Essentially, the report finds that the specialist regulator (DIRD transport ministry) but also the ACCC were rather asleep at the wheel in scrutinising Honda Australia’s inadequate recall notices sent out from 2015 until his death. Regulators should have done more and earlier, partly due to failures in inter-agency coordination. They and Honda Australia only seem to have started lifting their game after Mr Ngo’s death, the first in Australia.

* * *

After submitting my written statement, I was not called for oral examination at the inquest. However, the inquest findings (at pp149-53) show how I had alerted senior ACCC officials back in late 2015 that Honda Australia was sending out recall notices that I considered misleading by only referring vaguely to a “precautionary” recall and without highlighting the serious risks, even though by that stage some like myself knew that Takata airbags had caused multiple injuries and deaths abroad. (By chance, I had been following the Takata recall saga abroad as part of my longstanding research in comparative consumer product safety law and practice, and had purchased a second-hand Honda so when I got these recall letters from Honda Australia I realised they were problematic.) The deputy coroner noted eg (at p188-9):

“… The content of the consumer recall letters at least until March 2017 effectively failed to convey to the consumer the importance of the need to replace the airbag. The recall strategy failed to bring to the attention of the consumer the risk or danger that the airbag posed. That this approach continued well past the publication of the Blomquist report and that none of Honda Australia, DIRD or the ACCC sought to widen the recall strategy at this time is regrettable. Moreover, as already discussed at paragraphs [256]-[286], it is regrettable that Honda Australia, which had the primary responsibility for its voluntary campaign, did not identify that it should change its consumer recall letter and strategy well before March 2017.

645. It was a failure that the ACCC did not itself or seek DIRD to intervene in Honda Australia’s campaign approach when the opportunity arose, such as in 2015 with the NRMA and Professor Nottage communications or indeed [from 2016] in the Takata Airbag Working Group meetings.”

It was only a month after Mr Ngo’s death from the exploding Honda airbag that (pp 202-203):

“… in August 2017 the ACCC reviewed manufacturers’ language in recall notices on the PSA website, as well as more broadly in consumer communications, and took steps to develop model language to be used in connection with voluntary recall measures for Takata airbags. Although, at this point, there was not yet any compulsory recall on foot, Mr Grimwade [from the ACCC] said that “we took it upon ourselves to ensure that the language on our website was reflecting the risks as we understood them, and as they were emerging in the investigation”. Mr Grimwade accepted that ACCC officers could have, prior to 13 July 2017, usefully exchanged views in relation to the text to be used in Takata recall notices, in the manner in which they did in August 2017. He agreed that this “should have been done”.

688. Mr Grimwade’s expression that the ACCC took it upon themselves to conduct this review is somewhat odd given that he said there was no lack of clarity by the ACCC as to whose responsibility the PSA [Product Safety Australia] website was – the ACCC had sole responsibility for it at all times.

689. That the 5ZV recall used the term “precautionary” in its language on the website in the first place but continued to do up until this review is concerning as there were numerous occasions which should have or at least could have given the ACCC cause to conduct such a review, namely: (i) the 2015 NRMA letter; (ii) the late 2015 Professor Nottage correspondence; (iii) the Blomquist report [for US regulators] and NHTS orders in May 2016; (iv) the April 2017 injury causing the Toyota misdeployment in the Northern Territory together with (v) the ACCC participation in the Takata Airbags Working Group meetings from June 2016 and (vi) its close working relationship with DIRD.

690. On 5 August 2017, following receipt of responses from affected vehicle suppliers, the Minister for Small Business, Michael McCormack, issued a “Safety Warning Notice to the Public” under s 129(1) of the ACL, regarding possible risks of using motor vehicles containing Takata airbags.1037 The Safety Warning Notice warned of possible risks involved in the use of motor vehicles containing Takata airbags supplied in Australia, urged consumers to check whether their vehicle had been included in a product safety recall and advised that the ACCC was investigating whether vehicles with Takata airbags will or may cause injury.1038 Mr Grimwade advised that the purpose of a safety warning notice such as this is to “bring attention to a particular hazard through the [M]inister” and that “used sparingly… they can get quite a lot of publicity and indicate the views of government in relation to a particular hazard”.1039

691. Mr Grimwade accepted that there was an opportunity, prior to 13 July 2017, for the Minister to issue a Safety Warning Notice – such as that ultimately issued on 5 August 2017 – in respect of the risks posed in relation to the voluntary recalls of Takata airbags.1040 He accepted that there was a missed opportunity on the part of the ACCC, prior to 13 July 2017, to make a recommendation to the Minister to issue a safety warning notice in relation to the Takata airbag recalls.1041

692. If the ACCC was waiting for a risk to materialise to justify a sparingly used strategy to bring to public attention the need to respond to a recall of Takata airbags, the most obvious time that the ACCC should have approached the Minister to issue a Safety Warning Notice was in April 2017 following the Northern Territory injury.”

Some more specific findings by the deputy coroner were as follows:

1. Was there a lack of clarity and substantial confusion between ACCC and DIRD as to their respective roles in the monitoring of the Takata airbags voluntary recalls generally and specifically in regard to the 5ZV recall

Essentially yes, in that eg despite an inter-agency MoU “the ACCC did not know that DIRD did not have any process of its own in regard to the suppliers’ recall strategies nor did it know that the suppliers were not submitting their recall strategies to DIRD” (para 727). Furthermore (at p219), the coroner did not accept:

“the ACCC submissions that the ACCC had no basis to challenge or question Honda Australia’s description of the defect, hazard and risk contained in the 5ZV recall notification. It should have sought to clarify whether the defect would have the same effect and risk as other Takata airbag defects – namely the “inflator rupture causing metal fragments” to strike a vehicle occupant. Without clarifying whether the 5ZV recall involved the same hazard as then known to exist with the previous recalls, given there was no evidence suggesting that there was some other hazard, it would seem that the ACCC, DIRD and the suppliers proceeded on the basis that it was the same hazard but because the recall was classified as “precautionary” or “preventative” the hazard wasn’t appropriately described. That it was not clarified or corrected resulted in a failure to ensure that the public was adequately warned of the dangers of the defective airbags. Likewise, as previously discussed, Honda Australia failed to make due inquiry with Honda Japan in this regard though appeared to be aware that Honda Japan was using the terms preventative and precautionary as discussed above.

734. Counsel Assisting’s phrase of “lack of clarity” or “substantial confusion” is a measured term and the submissions advanced by DIRD and the ACCC demonstrate rather than diminish the disparity between the ACCC and DIRD as to their understanding of their respective roles and responsibilities when there is ample evidence that such disparity existed.”

3. Should DIRD and the ACCC have directly raised with Honda Australia that its consumer recall letters should not include tentative language such as “preventative measure” and “precautionary action” and that the letters did not clearly refer to the nature of the defect and the risk of death or injury in 2015 and 2016.

4. Should DIRD have sought from Honda Australia the 5ZV consumer recall letters.

Again, yes (p 211):

“… DIRD should have obtained at least one of the 5ZV recall letters by following up the request made in August 2015 or preferably by specifically making a new request for the 5ZV recall. Had DIRD received the 5ZV recall consumer letter/s, it appears unlikely that DIRD would have identified and taken action in respect of the issues which were concerning to Professor Nottage in late 2015 or indeed Mr Thomas in mid-2015 in relation to the letter he received for his own Honda vehicle. Those issues should have identified and been formally raised with Honda Australia. Again, whether DIRD would have done so had it obtained a copy of the 5ZV consumer letter is questionable given its position as to DIRD’s limited role and function. At the least it should have identified that the defect and risk were inadequately described in that it did not mention that metal fragments could cause injury or death to a vehicle occupant.

741. Likewise, the issues raised by Professor Nottage in 2015 should have been formally raised with Honda Australia by the ACCC or by DIRD at the request of the ACCC. There was no process in place for DIRD to be tasked with raising it directly with Honda Australia. Raising it generically in a TAWG meeting was, in the circumstances, inadequate.”

5. Should, prior to July 2017, the ACCC and/or DIRD have taken steps to publicise the risks posed by defective Takata airbags by way of its own media announcement or by co-ordinating a media campaign with the industry.

Yes (at p222-3), with the deputy coroner accepting:

“counsel for the ACCC and DIRD’s submissions that it was for the suppliers to co-ordinate and promote an advertising campaign, and though the ACCC and DIRD could encourage a wider campaign, neither agency had power to compel one. However, rather than adopting a reactive media posture which on one view could be thought to resemble a reluctance to publicise the Takata recalls, both agencies could have adopted a pro-active media posture on their own accord as well as encouraging industry, and in this case Honda Australia specifically, to engage in a public campaign.

749. Whilst the recall was voluntary and neither agency had powers to compel the industry to adopt such a strategy (in the absence of any compulsory recall then having been commenced), a supplier’s refusal or failure to engage in such a campaign strategy could have been an escalation criteria [sic] by which the agencies could measure the progress of the recall, and which may have motivated industry to engage in such a campaign. Advertising campaign aside, the MOU allowed for the joint settling of media releases issued by the ACCC or DIRD. The only media release that was prepared related to what would be issued in the event of a misdeployment event, rather than considering how the government could bring the recalls to the attention of the Australian public, for the sake of the public safety, in advance of any such incident. As Professor Nottage wrote to Mr Ridgeway at the ACCC at the end of 2015, a government media release incurred no cost. There is no good reason why DIRD and the ACCC failed to issue such a release. Likewise, there was no good reason why Honda Australia failed to do so, particularly given the scale of the recall. 

8. If the ACCC or DIRD had not missed the opportunities to bring the defect and risk of the Takata airbag to public notice, is it likely the Ngo/Chea vehicle airbag would have been replaced earlier thus preventing Mr Ngo’s death

Yes (pp225-6):

“…Ms Chea and her family did not know about the Takata airbag recall and when in March Ms Chea did learn of it having collected the registered letter, she had, within the week, booked the vehicle into Peter Warren’s service department for recall replacement. Had she learned of the defect earlier, it would appear that she would have made an earlier appointment. Likewise, had Julie Ngo been aware of the risk of the defective airbag she would have likely insisted that it be replaced on 11 July 2017. Whilst it is not possible to conclude that any action or inaction of the government agencies did contribute to Mr Ngo’s death, it is likewise not possible to conclude any action or inaction on their part did not contribute to Mr Ngo’s death.

757. Counsel for DIRD point out that Ms Chea says that she only received the March 2017 letter. That is the one she responded to. That letter had a clearer content consistent with the Blomquist Report and correctly identified the defect, hazard and risk. Had that information been contained in an earlier letter and received by Ms Chea or a family member then it is likely the Vehicle would have been booked in at an earlier time. Had there been public announcements then other persons who had received the earlier letters may have been able to identify the importance of the recall and brought it to Ms Chea’s attention.

758. As is apparent from the foregoing responses, I agree with the position advanced by Counsel Assisting. I make the finding that due to a lack of clarity and at times substantial confusion as to the respective roles of DIRD and the ACCC, together with the lack of a documented escalation process against which to monitor and advance the progress of the recall, the ACCC and DIRD inadequately administered and monitored the Takata Airbag voluntary recalls during the period July 2015 to July 2017. The inadequacy particularly arose in that there was a failure to ensure that the defect and hazard of the Takata airbag subject to the Honda Australia 5ZV recall was properly described to the Australian public on the ACCC’s PSA website, in the Honda Australia letters to consumers, or by Australian public media broadcasts in a timely and adequate manner.”

In conclusion, the deputy coroner added multiple recommendations for better monitoring of vehicle recalls in future (p226 et seq), in the context of some legislative reforms already underway.

* * *

Despite these quite critical findings and recommendations in November 2021, as of early May 2022 there seem to be no Australian newspaper reports on them, although there was some other Takata airbag fatality news in mid-2021.[8] Perhaps the lack of mainstream Australian media reporting on the inquest findings is because Mr Ngo’s death is sadly considered “old news”, and other fatalities or accidents are more widespread or vivid (especially after several years of deaths and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic). Yet it seems important that government officials and regulatory systems are held to account, and that lessons are learned and communicated from careful inquiries like inquests in order to improve consumer product safety law and practice.

Indeed, an article published online on 9 December 2021 by a smaller journalistic outlet reported that a former ACCC official allegedly lost his job in 2018 after some of his concerns went public that the Commission was not doing enough about the Takata recall:[9]

“… Three years ago an anonymous Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) official was frogmarched out of his office — and later threatened with criminal action — after internal emails became public via a television exposé on the Takata airbag scandal.

The official was concerned the ACCC had not reacted quickly enough on the threat to public safety of the potentially deadly airbags and used its powers only after a driver was killed by shrapnel from an exploding airbag which penetrated his neck, causing him to bleed to death.

Now a coroner’s hearing has confirmed that many of the official’s warnings were on the mark. 

For one thing it means the official feels confident about revealing his identity. His name is Dean Wright. He held a senior executive level position as assistant director of the ACCC’s product safety branch and he was 52 at the time.”

“I am entirely comfortable with what I did,” Wright told Crikey. “I felt I had no choice.

“I don’t regret my part in revealing the truth about the years of dithering. I’d like to believe that the coronial court’s recommendations will save lives and prevent further horrific injuries.”

Does he feel he is owed an apology? 

“Yes. That would be the right thing to do, but more to the point the ACCC owes the public an apology for not being truthful.”

The ACCC said it did not propose to comment on Wright’s “actions or opinions”. It also said it had “identified and implemented a number of lessons drawn from the inquest” before the coroner’s report was released and was working on others.”

Meanwhile, perhaps in the light of the inquest, a class action brought in the NSW Supreme Court against Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda and BMW reached a mediated settlement in September 2021 for A$52m (including $15m for the plaintiffs’ lawyers!). A specialist media outlet report noted furthermore that:[10]

“In August, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) launched legal action against Mercedes-Benz, accusing it of minimising the risk of serious injury of death from the faulty Takata products. The ACCC alleges Mercedes-Benz staff downplayed the risks “on at least 73 occasions,” stating the recall was precautionary in nature and “there had been no incidents, accidents, injuries or deaths … at all,” despite there already having been one fatality in Australia at that time and one serious injury recorded.”

The saga therefore continues, so there may still be scope for the wider public to learn what really went on from the Takata airbag debacle, and the lessons that can be drawn more generally for consumer law and policy in Australia and beyond. There have been longstanding concerns particularly about Australia’s lack of clarity and impact of the law on recalls (and mandatory accident reporting) and insufficient coordination or leadership from the ACCC and state/territory regulators vis-a-vis specialist regulators (as pointed out eg in 2013, prompted by a problem reported regarding Volkswagen – even before its fake diesel emissions disclosure scandal).



[1] For background into the NSW law and practice around appearing in coronial inquests, see eg https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiBzo2WzdH3AhUiyzgGHT86AZUQFnoECAQQAQ&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww5.austlii.edu.au%2Fau%2Fjournals%2FNSWBarAssocNews%2F2014%2F12.pdf&usg=AOvVaw30yvr7BIPzuS0Gx25wPu3D

[2] https://www.accc.gov.au/media-release/car-manufacturers-complete-999-per-cent-of-takata-airbag-recall

[3] See eg https://www.choice.com.au/transport/cars/general/articles/unprecendented-mandatory-recall-takata-airbags-280218

[4] https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/nsw-inquest-into-death-of-sydney-driver-to-examine-takata-airbag-risks/n4kk69rs4 and https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-09-23/faulty-takata-airbag-coroner-inquiry-death-cabramatta-man/11538628

[5] https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/jun/22/regulators-knew-of-two-takata-accidents-before-a-sydney-mans-death-inquest-told

[6] https://www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/faulty-airbag-at-centre-of-recall-to-blame-for-death-of-sydney-man-20170721-gxg5yj.html

[7]  https://coroners.nsw.gov.au/coroners-court/download.html/documents/findings/2021/Inquest_into_the_death_of_Huy_Neng_Ngo_-_Findings.pdf via https://coroners.nsw.gov.au.

[8] https://www.dailytelegraph.com.au › nsw › news-story: 3 June 2021 — “The ACCC has found a third Australian was killed by a Takata airbag, raising questions about why there was not a coronial inquest.”

[9] https://www.crikey.com.au/2021/12/09/accc-whistleblower-vindicated-steps-out-of-shadows/

[10] https://www.whichcar.com.au/car-news/takata-lawsuits-in-nsw-settled-by-major-car-companies-for-52-million

Japan: Sustainable Corporate Governance and ‘Gradual Transformation’

[ANJeL Program Convenor Prof Souichirou Kozuka and I have written a shorter chapter on Japan for the 5th edition of Principles of Contemporary Corporate Governance (by Jean Jacques du Plessis, Anil Hargovan and Jason Harris): see our longer manuscript version reproduced here for the 4th edition published by Cambridge University Press in 2018). As indicated in the introduction below, we pay particular attention to the hot topic internationally of ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors in corporate activity and investment, highlighting changes and (mostly) continuities in the corporate governance system behind Japan’s rapid uptake of ESG and sustainable or responsible investment.]

Japan developed vibrant commercial activity domestically towards the end of the Tokugawa Shogunate era (1603-1867), when it largely closed itself off to the world. As the country re-opened and expanded industrialisation over the Meiji Era (1868-1912), codifications and legal institutions were introduced following the European civil law tradition. Stock exchanges were established and investment grew into often family-owned companies, resulting in considerable emphasis on shareholder primacy before World War II.

However, after the US-led Allied Occupation (1946-51) until at least the 1980s, Japan became renowned for its stakeholder approach to corporate governance. More emphasis was placed on the interests and roles of employees (especially those in “lifelong employment”), creditors (especially “main banks”) and key suppliers or corporate customers (including in “keiretsu” corporate groups, and/or involving significant cross-shareholdings). These three practices influencing corporate governance, only loosely underpinned by relevant legislation, started to unravel after an asset bubble collapsed and Japan entered a “lost decade” of economic stagnation from the 1990s. Growing foreign investment into the Japanese stock market also supported a “gradual transformation” toward more shareholder primacy. This has involved some more protection for minority shareholders, and partial shifts towards a “monitoring” rather than executive board especially in listed companies (as elaborated in Part 11.2 of our new chapter).

The transformation since the 1990s has been reinforced by the creation of a new legislative regime (Part 11.3) and more recent “soft law” Codes for corporate governance and engagement or stewardship by institutional investors (Part II.4). Japan has experienced three major waves in the development of corporate law, at roughly half-century intervals. The Meiji-era Commercial Code enacted around the turn of the 20th century was followed by US-inspired reforms during the post-war Occupation, then much more wide-ranging reforms from around the turn of the 21st century prompted by Japan’s economic slowdown. Even in terms of formal legislative changes, the trajectory has not been one of straightforward ‘Americanisation’, and the overall position now reached is also very different from US law, as evidenced by the partial persistence of the statutory auditor governance structure inspired by German law. Also evident are some influences from – or at least parallels with – aspects of English law. These are epitomised recently in listing requirements, including a ‘comply or explain’ Corporate Governance Code since 2015, and an earlier tendency in takeover regulation to give priority to decisions of shareholders over those of directors. The impact of German law, filtered sometimes nowadays through EU law, remains important too. Japan’s complex corporate law landscape is also influenced by  the three distinctive features of post-War corporate governance practice mentioned above, even though they too have been undergoing gradual transformations.

Much discussion has emerged recently also around ESG issues for investors and managers in Japan, as in many other jurisdictions with large securities markets (Part II.5). A key question is whether this means even-greater shareholder primacy, as foreign institutional investors in particular pushed for further ESG initiatives from Japanese firms, or whether it marks their return towards more stakeholder-based corporate governance. The answer is important for predicting likely future directions (Part II.6).

Developing Diversity within Diversity Discourse: Remembering Non-Lawyers in Arbitration, in Asia and Beyond

This is the title of a presentation (Powerpoints in PDF here) for the 28-29 May 2022 19th ASLI Asian Law Conference, hosted this year by the University of Tokyo, based on an empirical study by myself, ANJeL-in-ASEAN convenor Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura, and USydney research assistant James Tanna. It adds some directly Asia-related data to the analysis presented in a forthcoming chapter in Shahla Ali, Giorgio Colombo et al (eds) Sustainable Diversity in International Arbitration (Elgar, mid-late 2022), with a longer paper available via SSRN and a posting summarising key empirical findings via Kluwer Arbitration Blog.

Our presentation for ASLI also suggests that given the relative influence still of law professors in developing international arbitration in Asian states, particularly perhaps those more influenced by the civil law tradition, the large and growing dominance of full-time lawyers across the field may have a significant indirect impact on international arbitration in Asia.

Presentation Abstract: This paper, co-authored with Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (UBrunei) and James Tanna (USydney), highlights a curious lack of diversity within the proliferating discourse about the lack of diversity in international arbitration. There is hardly any awareness or at least sustained discussion about limited diversity of professional backgrounds, and more specifically the dominance nowadays of those with practising lawyer positions or primary careers – including more recently in Asia – across the key groups and publication outlets for international arbitration. Yet this encroachment of lawyers was still being contested in the 1990s, as being linked to burgeoning costs and delays, and such “formalisation” has been re-emerging in recent years. Diversifying the world of international arbitration to involve more non-lawyers, including academics, could promote various other objectives too, and thus enhance the legitimacy and sustainability of international arbitration.

This paper therefore analyses empirically the ways lawyers have come to dominate key nodes of influence within the world of international arbitration. We examine this worldwide and in the Asian region, thus also giving a sense of geographical diversity. Part I looks at lawyers in key general associations or organisations promoting international arbitration, including their leadership and presenters at symposiums. Part II focuses on various arbitration centres globally and regionally, which actually administer cases. Part III examines contributions to some key arbitration journals (including the Asian International Arbitration Journal), an influential book series, and a widely-read Blog. The conclusion reiterates that restoring more non-lawyers in the world of international arbitration should help not only to reduce formalisation and inefficiencies in international arbitration, but also have various other salutary effects, including potentially improving gender diversity.

Corruption and Illegality in Asian Investment Arbitration

Written by: Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (UBD-IAS, CAPLUS affiliate) and Luke Nottage

[Updates: I have co-authored draft introductory and Thailand chapters for this book project proposed with Springer, and will present them at an invitation-only webinar for book contributors hosted by UBrunei on 15 June 2022, as well as at Griffith University’s Law Futures Centre on 21 July 2022.]

The Institute of Asian Studies at the Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD-IAS) has recently funded a conference volume project on this important topic, involving several professors from the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS).

Bribery and other serious illegal behaviour by foreign investors are widely condemned in any society. The problem is that people seem not to have reached a consensus on the consequences of corruption and illegality in international investment and especially in investment arbitration – a transnational procedure to resolve disputes between a foreign investor and a host state. A core issue is whether a foreign investor who violated a host state’s law would be awarded protection of its investment, as per its contract with the host state and/or the applicable trade or investment agreement between the home state and the host state. Some suggest such protection would be unnecessary, as the investor committed a crime in the host state, while others attempt to establish an equilibrium between the investor and the host state. Some others claim to protect investment, invoking the sanctity of promises made. This research explores ‘Asian’ approaches toward the issue, considering the extent to which significant states in Asia are likely to become ‘rule makers’ rather than ‘rule takers’ regarding corruption and serious illegality in investor-state arbitration. To this end, we will employ a comparative method, inviting scholars from the Asia-Pacific region, including UBD-IAS and other institutions.

The Principal Investigator is Dr Nobumichi Teramura, the Co-Principal Investigator is Assoc Prof Bruno Jetin (UBD-IAS Director), Luke Nottage (appointed also now a Visiting Professor at UBD) is another contributor and the others are listed below. Many have previously worked together on related Asia-focused projects, notably their co-edited volume with Shahla Ali on New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Wolters Kluwer 2021) and Luke Nottage’s book co-edited with Julien Chaisse on Investment Treaties and International Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018; expanding on country reports from a 2017 JWIT special issue on ASEAN with Prof Sakda Thanitcul as joint special editor and supported by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre).

This new project’s primary purpose is to examine Asian approaches and case studies regarding corruption and serious illegality in international investment arbitration. It focuses on corruption-related disputes between private parties and public sector entities. It also covers other serious illegal conduct by foreign investors  related to or broadly equivalent to corruption and bribery, including serious non-compliance with key provisions of national laws regulating the admission or operation of foreign investment.

Regional free trade agreements such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP Agreement) mandate member states to combat corruption and other illegal conduct. However, they remain silent on how specifically to deal with public-private disputes arising from corruption and illegality. Trade and investment law experts have become well aware of the problem, and some suggest treaty reforms even at a global level. Against this backdrop, the research aims to accumulate Asian perspectives, for Asia to build the foundation of leading the next rounds of treaty reforms. In particular, it intends to address the following questions:

  1. Whether Asia has been and will remain ‘ambivalent’ about international law prohibiting corruption and illegality. How have Asian countries been combatting corruption and other illegal activities particularly as to foreign investment? What laws and rules exist, and how do they operate in respective jurisdictions? What are the recent developments?
  2. Whether and how Asian countries have dealt with corruption and illegality in relation to foreign investment projects. If they have faced any international investment cases, what are the outcomes and consequences?
  3. Whether Asian countries have been or are more likely to become ‘rule makers’ rather than ‘rule takers’ in international investment law (as explored generally in the Brill and Wolter Kluwers books mentioned above) regarding corruption and illegality.

Those questions will support us to achieve the central objective: to examine Asian approaches toward  corruption and illegality in international investment arbitration. As we enter an age in which Brunei is increasing its engagement with foreign companies, it is probable that there will be disputes that need to be arbitrated, and corruption and illegality in investment arbitration are issues which other countries in the region are already facing. This research project will help the Bruneian authorities and the academic community, and counterparts in other Asia-Pacific jurisdictions as well as further afield especially when engaging with this region, learn more about such topical issues and potential counter-measures.

More specific expected outcomes include:

  1. One international online research workshop in mid 2022 and one international symposium in early 2023 (depending on pandemic travel restrictions), both in Brunei, for the contributors to present their papers and exchange opinions.
  2. An edited volume in the IAS-Springer Book Series on “Asia in Transition” based on the research papers by the contributors. (A further grant will be applied for to assist with related copy-editing etc, and CAPLUS interns and other Sydney Law School resources will assist particularly with the chapters authored by CAPLUS members.)
  3. A journal article co-authored by Professor Nottage, A/Professor Jetin and Dr Teramura for a Q1 Scopus journal.

Contributors based at UBD:

Name and FICsDescription of contribution
Dr Nobumichi TERAMURA (UBD-IAS)Principal Investigator – general editor and author of chapters for the edited volume in the IAS-UBD “Asia in Transition” series
Associate Professor Bruno Jetin (UBD-IAS)Co-Principal Investigator – general editor and author of chapters for the edited volume in the IAS-UBD “Asia in Transition” series
Yang Amat Mulia Pengiran Indera Negara Pengiran Anak Haji Puteh ibni Al-Marhum Pengiran Pemancha Pengiran Anak Haji Mohamed AlamGeneral contributor (re corruption, investment, arbitration and the Asia-Pacific) and author of the forewords of the edited volume
Professor Ahmed Masood Khalid (UBD-SBE)Contributor (re business and corruption)
Dr Masairol Bin Haji Masri (UBD-SBE)Contributor (re business and corruption)
Dr Hammeed Abayomi Al-Ameen (UBD-SBE)Contributor (re business law and corruption)

Other Contributors:

Professor Luke NottageUniversity of Sydney, Australia (CAPLUS Associate Director); UBD (visiting professor)Co-organiser – general editor and author of chapters for the edited volume in the IAS-UBD “Asia in Transition” series
Dr Colin Ong QCArbitration Association of Brunei Darussalam; and Colin Ong Legal ServiceContributor (re standard of proof for corruption allegations)
Professor Sakda ThanitculFaculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, ThailandContributor (re Thailand)
Professor Sirilaksana KhomanFaculty of Economics, Chulalongkorn University; National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC), ThailandContributor (re Thailand)
Mr Antony CrockettHerbert Smith Freehills, Hong KongContributor (re Indonesia)
Professor Simon ButtUniversity of Sydney (CAPLUS Co-Director)Contributor (re Indonesia)
Professor Romesh WeeramantryNational University of Singapore; Clifford ChanceContributor (re Lao Republic)
Justice Anselmo ReyesSingapore International Commercial CourtContributor (re corruption regulations for economic warfare)
Professor Vivienne BathUniversity of Sydney (former CAPLUS Director)Contributor (re China and Hong Kong)
Professor Joongi KimYonsei Law School, South KoreaContributor (re South Korea)
Professor Dai TamadaKyoto University, JapanContributor (re Japan)
Dr Prabhash RanjanSouth Asian University, IndiaContributor (re India)
Dr Martin JarrettMax Planck Institute, Heidelberg, GermanyContributor (re general investment law and investor misconduct)
Professor Tim LindseyUniversity of Melbourne, AustraliaContributor (re Indonesia)
Dr Jocelyn CruzDe La Salle University, the PhilippinesContributor (re the Philippines)

Publications and Webinars on Asia-Pacific arbitration and ISDS

On 23 March 2022 Kyoto University awarded Luke Nottage an LLD by publications for his book of selected/updated and some new essays on International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration: Australia and Japan in Regional and Global Contexts (Elgar, 2021). In addition, a Transnational Dispute Management report of (Young-OGEMID listserv) Q&A about the book was published in February 2022.

On 2 March 2022 Prof Luke Nottage joined Dr Michael Hwang SC (Singapore), Neil Kaplan CBE QC SBS (Hong Kong), Hafez Virjee (Paris) for a public webinar entitled “Between Theory and Practice”, discussing the development of international arbitration particularly in the Asia-Pacific region and the place of Australian practitioners in this global market: watch the recording here. The webinar also discussed the benefits of pursuing international arbitration as an elective course, in the context of the large range of international arbitration materials made available to Sydney Law School students and staff through the Delos Dispute Resolution platform thanks to a subscription donated by Dr Hwang.

On 25 February Luke Nottage was interviewed for a podcast recording by a Bosnia-based association for arbitration, discussing the hot topic of transparency vs confidentiality particular in investor-state dispute resolution. Below is the outline of key points discussed.

In addition, Luke Nottage spoke on ISDS and investment treaties at the UoW Transnational Law and Policy Centre‘s co-hosted symposium on topics being negotiated in the Australia-India FTA (recording here), focusing on mandatory mediation before investors arbitrate disputes, and was then invited to speak on ISDS reform more generally for a symposium hosted by the Indian government’s Centre for Trade and Investment Law.

Some of Luke Nottage’s related recent publications include an overview chapter for a new book on the Asian Turn in Foreign Investment, an econometric analysis of ISDS-backed treaties on FDI flows, international arbitration and society at large (in the new Cambridge Compendium), professional diversity in international arbitration, and a review forthcoming in the Australian Law Journal of a new book on International and Australian Commercial Arbitration.

* * *

25 February 2022 webinar on Transparency in ISDS:

  • Pros and cons of transparency in international arbitration generally?
    • Fewer costs and delays in procedures and award-writing if procedure limited to the parties/counsel and arbitrators, not wider public
    • vs leads to more info asymetries in this market for services (arbitrators, especially lawyers, even expert witnesses) hence potential costs and delays: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2987674
    • If diminishing net cost savings, even in intl commercial arbitration, less attractive balance from rule of law perspective, undermining legitimacy of international arbitration compared to (more public) litigation – see (Menon CJ article, quoted in my JoIA article on ACICA Rules 2021 https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3931086: incidentally, those don’t relax confidentiality but do require disclosure of third-party funders)
    • Especially in investor-state arbitration, given its inherent greater public interests, and growing media attention (and polarisation)
  • Current regime:
    • Already considerable (surprising) transparency in ISA re awards (2/3): https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3227401 **
    • ICC Rules (mostly an ICA org, occasionally ISA): no confidentiality imposed on parties
    • ICSID Convention / Rules (2/3 of ISA cases): likewise, but eg „shall promptly“ publish „excerpts of legal reasoning“ in awards, need consent of parties for full award (or leak!)
    • Ad hoc arb UNCITRAL Rules (eg 2010): likewise, can publish awards if parties consent, arbitrator discretion re other transparency (eg Philip Morris v Australia procedural order)
      • Revised 2013 for transparency in all treaty-based arbs, then 2014 Mauritius Convention to extend transparency to pre-2014 treaties (whether UNCITRAL or other Rules)
  • The recent amendments of investment arbitration rules (most notably ICSID) and dispute resolution clauses in IIAs [eg] to allow third-party submissions.
    •  ICSID already in 2006 had amended its Rules for Convention and AF cases to somewhat expand confidentiality – https://icsid.worldbank.org/resources/rules-and-regulations/amendments/about
    • Recently decided further ICSID Rules revisions (since late 2016) align AF Rules (which also now can be adopted even without any party being member of the ICSID Convention) with expansive transparency across all stages as in UNCITRAL Rules; plus for ICSID (Convention states) Arb Rules eg at https://icsid.worldbank.org/resources/rules-amendments
      • [Proposed Rule 62] Automatic publication of award if 60 days pass and no objection lodged by a party (cf earlier debate that such „deemed consent“ too incompatible with Convention, which would need to be then amended but too many member states!)
      • [Rule 63] Publish excerpts of legal reasoning re decisions other than awards, eg on jurisdiction (eg recently under Australia-Egypt BIT: do treaties providing that a host state „shall“ consent to ISA provide advance consent to that procedure? Earlier see my https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2424987)
      • [Rule 64] publish other docs lodged (eg party submission) also if agreed by parties or tribunal discretion / weighing
      • [Rule 65] shall allow non-parties to attend hearings (and publish transcript or recording) unless a party objects
      • [Rule 66] but subject to redaction etc for „confidential information“ (listed types below)
      • [Rule 67] expanded provisions so tribunals MAY allow submissions etc by „non-disputing parties“ eg amicus curiae – text below bolded
      • [Rule 68] provisions so tribunals SHALL allow „non-disputing treaty parties“
  • Tension between the transparency concerns expressed by the States in the context of ISDS and the lack of actual application of the transparency rules in practice. 
    • Yet only 9 ratifications of Mauritius Convention, few of the big players (eg Canada 2016, Switzerland 2017, Australia 2020 alongside review of old BITs – but no public report!): lose control / treaty negotiating leverage? Prefer incorporating tailored regime in treaties, anyway need to do so (Rules options provided, and/or amendments) for post-2014 treaties as Mauritius Convention doesn’t apply to those
    • Some host states have been reticent about too much transparency, including in treaty (re)drafting or UNCITRAL reform deliberations: exposes their (even alleged) poor governance (hence many investors favour transparency, potentially even encouraging settlement: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2065636), impede settlement (only partly empirically justified? ** and see further Ubilava at https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3352181), more costs and delays (arguments over exceptions to transparency: Prof Zachary Douglas at https://www.claytonutz.com/ialecture/previous-lectures/2020)
  • Impact of legal tradition and culture on the approach to transparency in ISDS?
    • Less determined by say civil vs common law tradition, more eg socialist law / governance (eg Vietnam etc haven’t even ratified ICSID Convention, Chinese treatise were slow to incorporate much transparency) or developing country status (eg India?)
    • Culture might have some (small) impact: surveys etc show Eastern parties / counsel see confidentiality as advantage over litigation compared to Western, more generally think of eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Farewell_(2019_film) ?
  • Possible solutions to the improvement of transparency, while maintaining the benefits of confidentiality that the parties desire
    • States party should try to agree in treaties in advance
    • or during proceedings (but then host state and investor, and often acrimonious generally)
    • Otherwise, tribunals and counsel need to be aware of the competing interests, pros and cons of transparency (especially for costs and delays) as discussed above, when weighing whether and how to allow disclosures.

New ICSID (Convention) Arbitration Rule 66

Confidential or Protected Information

For the purposes of Rules 62-65, confidential or protected information is information

which is protected from public disclosure:

(a) by the instrument of consent to arbitration;

(b) by the applicable law or applicable rules;

(c) in the case of information of a State party to the dispute, by the law of that State;

(d) in accordance with the orders and decisions of the Tribunal;

(e) by agreement of the parties;

(f) because it constitutes confidential business information or protected personal

information;

(g) because public disclosure would impede law enforcement;

(h) because a State party to the dispute considers that public disclosure would be

contrary to its essential security interests;

(i) because public disclosure would aggravate the dispute between the parties; or

(j) because public disclosure would undermine the integrity of the arbitral process.

Rule 67

Submission of Non-Disputing Parties

(1) Any person or entity that is not a party to the dispute (“non-disputing party”) may

apply for permission to file a written submission in the proceeding. The application

shall be made in the procedural language(s) used in the proceeding.

(2) In determining whether to permit a non-disputing party submission, the Tribunal

shall consider all relevant circumstances, including:

(a) whether the submission would address a matter within the scope of the dispute;

(b) how the submission would assist the Tribunal to determine a factual or legal

issue related to the proceeding by bringing a perspective, particular knowledge

or insight that is different from that of the parties;

(c) whether the non-disputing party has a significant interest in the proceeding;

(d) the identity, activities, organization and ownership of the non-disputing party,

including any direct or indirect affiliation between the non-disputing party, a

party or a non-disputing Treaty Party; and

(e) whether any person or entity will provide the non-disputing party with financial

or other assistance to file the submission.

(3) The parties shall have the right to make observations on whether a non-disputing

party should be permitted to file a written submission in the proceeding and on any

conditions for filing such a submission.

(4) The Tribunal shall ensure that non-disputing party participation does not disrupt the

proceeding or unduly burden or unfairly prejudice either party. To this end, the

Tribunal may impose conditions on the non-disputing party, including with respect

to the format, length, scope or publication of the written submission and the time

limit to file the submission.

(5) The Tribunal shall issue a reasoned decision on whether to permit a non-disputing

party submission within 30 days after the last written submission on the application.

(6) The Tribunal shall provide the non-disputing party with relevant documents filed in

the proceeding, unless either party objects.

(7) If the Tribunal permits a non-disputing party to file a written submission, the parties

shall have the right to make observations on the submission.

** “… around 85% of cases where either the investor or the state have won are fully Public, and almost all the rest are only Partly Confidential. For settled cases, as italicised, 41% are Public or Partly Confidential.  This suggests that minimising costs and delays through early settlement may often be facilitated by keeping the outcome at least partly private, but not necessarily in all situations.”

“International and Australian Commercial Arbitration” – Book Review

[Update: this review was published in 96 Australian Law Journal 369-71 (2022).]

This [new book analysing a field also important to Japan and other Asia-Pacific jurisdictions (LexisNexis, 2022, xii +735pp: ISBN 9780409353075, Paperback $185.)] is an authoritative and comprehensive 640-page commentary on both international and domestic arbitration law in Australia, from two eminent former full-time judges (Clyde Croft and Marilyn Warren) and one early-career academic (Drossos Stamboulakis) all now affiliated with Monash University. It is supplemented first by the text of the International Arbitration Act (IAA)and its first two Schedules, the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (NYC) and the 2006 revised United Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (ML). The book also adds the text of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, devised for ad hoc arbitrations but also forming the core of some institutional arbitration rules, as for the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration,[1] whose first edition Rules Croft helped draft (before judicial appointment) drawing on his detailed knowledge of the UNCITRAL Rules.[2] Although these international instruments and legislation are freely available online, it is helpful to have their text appended in this volume, although it must add somewhat to the cost of the paperback or hardback versions.

The volume fills a significant gap in the literature on the comparatively small but lively field of arbitration in Australia. On the last page, as “related LexisNexis titles”, the publisher lists the commentary by Croft and others focused on domestic arbitration,[3] and another by Malcolm Holmes and Chester Brown on the IAA.[4] The present volume is more discursive and principles-based, rather than a section-by-section commentary, and covers domestic and international arbitration in Australia – both centred on the ML regime since 2010. There also exists an edited collection of essays on various aspects of international arbitration law and practice in Australia, including two chapters co-authored by Croft.[5] However, those analyses date back to 2010 (when the most significant amendments were made to the IAA) and include some more normative material (such as suggestions for further reform to legislation and arbitration rules). A more recent new book of selected (mostly updated) essays examines Australia but also compares developments particularly in Japan.[6] That also includes an analysis of investment treaty arbitration, a hybrid field of growing importance in Australia and worldwide, but not covered in the volume presently under review.[7] In short, this important new volume should fill a gap on the bookshelves (or eBook readers) of all those interested in domestic and international commercial arbitration in Australia.

It will be useful for practitioners seeking a clear overview of key principles enacted and applied by courts particularly in the Australian context, as well as university teachers and students of international commercial arbitration. The volume is written in a somewhat hybrid style. Although it is primarily a textbook, it includes sometimes quite lengthy extracts from judgments, making the volume also somewhat like “cases and materials”. These extracts are mainly from Australian case law (sometimes generated by two of the three authors when still serving on the Supreme Court of Victoria, particularly by Croft as he was charged with its Arbitration List), but also from case law particularly in Singapore and Hong Kong. That is very appropriate given the ML core and wider common law tradition shared with both those jurisdictions, and hence their influence on case law and some legislative reform in Australia.[8] Those jurisdictions also attract many more international arbitrations, hence court challenges generating case law on topics that Australian courts have not yet had to canvas or in as much detail. However, the present authors also refer to further crucial resources for correctly interpreting the international instruments and principles in contemporary arbitration. These include especially UNCITRAL documentation, including its Case Law Digest summarising key judgments worldwide, UNCITRAL’s Explanatory Note to ML (eg at pp 76-9).[9]

In coverage, after a Foreword by Robert French (former Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia), chapter 1 (pp 1-26) first introduces the “Nature of Arbitration and its Historical Development”. This includes its development in Europe, in England (including Derek Roebuck’s interesting argument that there was no less arbitration activity there in the 18th than early 20th century, undermining somewhat the view that English judges were quite wary and hence interventionist about arbitration from the 19th century), and in colonial Australia. The commentary then contrasts arbitration with other forms of dispute resolution (although the volume barely covers the hot topic of “Arb-Med” or arbitrators actively encouraging settlement), followed by the advantages and disadvantages of arbitration (highlighting advantages, but acknowledging the problem of cost – and, one might add, delays). Chapter 1 ends with a short analysis of “the bases of arbitral and judicial power”, emphasising the centrality of party agreement for arbitration as illustrated in a (quite lengthy) extract from High Court judgment unanimously rejecting a constitutional challenge to the ML regime for enforcing awards.[10] However, the commentary briefly mentions that “arbitral and judicial power may be affected by an exercise of the general sovereign power of the state, although such circumstances are exceptional” (p 26).[11]

Chapter 2 (pp 27-96) turns to the “Australian Approach to Arbitration”, tracking the evolution of arbitration statutes. This included the initiative from Queensland law reformers to update legislation in the early 1970s, prompted by the more pro-arbitration English Arbitration Act 1950, as it seemed “at this time that the Australian courts entertained suspicion, if not a dislike, of arbitration and treated it as an inferior jurisdiction that needed close supervision” (p 29). It was quite surprising to learn of this early intiative, at least for this reviewer immigrating to Australia from 2001, given that other State and federal legislators and courts have arguably been more influential in promoting arbitration in recent decades across Australia.[12] Generally, however, case law developments along with legislative enactments particularly since 2010 do indeed seem to have reduced inconsistencies and some possible “perception that Australian courts hindered effective commercial arbitration by being unduly interventionist in a number of ways” (p 92), not necessarily in accordance with the uniform approach to supporting arbitration promoted by the NYC and ML regimes.[13] Nonetheless, the commentary notes that “[c]ourt rules have tended not to keep pace with the legislative developments facilitating international and domestic arbitration in recent years” (p 93).

The remaining Chapters 3-11 cover the standard “life cycle” of a commercial arbitration filing, proceeding and award enforcement or challenge. Key principles, provisions and case law are clearly set out. Some of the longer extracts from judgments could benefit from paraphrasing or further contextualisation, and could mean that future editions of the book may be needed quite soon. Vexed issues in Australian arbitration law are almost all touched on, although sometimes without much detail or normative assessment of what the law should be. An example is the interaction with the Australian Consumer Law, impacting on many business-to-business transactions, which is gaining in importance for public policy (and hence potential challenge for arbitration agreements and especially awards) as law reformers now suggest adding pecuniary penalties for unfair contract terms and violating mandatory consumer guarantees.[14] In addition, keen readers may like to match up this book’s treatment of vexed issues with recent proposals for further law reform (underpinned by local or foreign case law, ML-based statutes and commentary),[15] assisted by the helpful index (pp 719-35) and Overview of sub-topics at the start of each chapter.

In sum, this book is very much recommended for practitioners, the academic community, and those considering amending rules and legislation around arbitration in Australia.


# Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law, University of Sydney Law School; Special Counsel, Williams Trade Law.

[1] Nottage, Luke R. and Dreosti, Julia and Tang, Robert, The ACICA Arbitration Rules 2021: Advancing Australia’s Pro-Arbitration Culture (September 26, 2021). Journal of International Arbitration, 38:6, 2021 (Forthcoming), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3931086

[2] https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/guide-to-the-uncitral-arbitration-rules/DE8790A3707F69031D72729CF6885104

[3] https://store.lexisnexis.com.au/products/australian-commercial-arbitration-2nd-edition-skuaustralian_commercial_arbitration_2nd_edition

[4] https://store.lexisnexis.com.au/categories/practice-area/dispute-resolution-amp-civil-procedure-790/the-international-arbitration-act-1974-a-commentary-3rd-edition-sku9780409348132/details

[5] Chapters 5 (pp103-21) and 7 (pp 137-48) in Nottage and Garnett (eds) International Arbitration in Australia https://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/4975990 (Federation Press, 2010)

[6] https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/2020/08/book-in-press-with-elgar/

[7] Compare also the introduction to the procedural and substantive law principles in investment treaties in a commentary by three Australian authors, https://www.booktopia.com.au/international-commercial-arbitration-simon-greenberg/book/9780521695701.html?source=pla&gclid=Cj0KCQiA9OiPBhCOARIsAI0y71CxTtzSq5mzZYT7CAGcHwJpXlNGUoO2smpLT_3rixw1uEDsMTCb3qUaAnvqEALw_wcB. A new edition of that book is forthcoming from Kluwer, along with national reports on key topics including eg Luke Nottage and Nathan Eastwood, International Commercial Arbitration: An Asia Pacific Perspective – 2021 Australia Report via https://www.wolterskluwer.com/en/solutions/kluwerarbitration

[8] Dean Lewis, ‘The Interpretation and Uniformity of the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration: Focusing on Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore’ (Kluwer Law International, 2016); Nottage, Luke R., Deference of Seat or Foreign Courts to International Commercial Arbitration Tribunals Concerning Procedural Issues: Australia in Regional and Global Contexts (January 21, 2022). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4013970

[9] With that Note extensively cited in the extract from Subway Systems Australia Pty Ltd v Ireland (2014) 46 VR at 52-6.

[10] TCL Air Conditioner (Zhongshan) Co Ltd v Judges of the Federal Court of Australia (2013) 251 CLR 533 at 566-8.

[11] Citing Minerology Pty Ltd v Western Australia [2021] HCA and Palmer v Western Australia [2021] HCA 31. These disputes involving State legislation nullifying commercial arbitration awards may lead to an international treaty arbitration claim: see Luke Nottage, https://theconversation.com/clive-palmer-versus-western-australia-he-could-survive-a-high-court-loss-if-his-company-is-found-to-be-foreign-145334

[12] For example, Queensland was the second-last jurisdiction in Australia to enact the new uniform Commercial Arbitration Act based instead on the ML (in 2013), and has had some case law on international arbitration attracting criticism from commentators and other courts: see eg Cargill International SA v Peabody Australia Mining Ltd [2010] NSWSC 887.

[13] For more detail on this transition, first in Hong Kong then Singapore, see also Lewis (n 8).

[14] See Treasury, “Strengthening protections against unfair contract terms” at <https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2021-201582> and “Improving consumer guarantees and supplier indemnification provisions under the Australian Consumer Law” at <https://treasury.gov.au/consultation/c2021-224294>.

[15] See eg Nottage (2021 Elgar = n 6) pp129-75, updating https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2393232; Monichino, Albert and Teramura, Nobumichi, New Frontiers for International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: Beyond the ‘Lucky Country’ (December 2020). New Frontiers for International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: Beyond the ‘Lucky Country,’ in Luke Nottage, Shahla Ali, Bruno Jetin and Nobumichi Teramura (eds), New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution. Wolters Kluwer (2020), Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3946073