UNCCA conference (video) presentation: “Australia’s investment treaties and reviews”

Written by: Prof Luke Nottage & Ana Ubilava

[This posting and linked video presentation, reproduced from Erga Omnes, relates also to my book in press with Elgar comparing international arbitration in Australia and Japan in regional and global contexts.]

The UNCITRAL Coordination Committee for Australia (UNCCA) and the Commercial Law Association (CLA) is holding an online seminar on Monday 26 October 2020 partly to celebrate the fortieth anniversary on the CISG (UN Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods). The live, interactive seminar will be supplemented by a full conference package including pre-recorded presentations. A longer (30-minute) version of a pre-recording by UNCCA Fellow Dr Luke Nottage (Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law) and Ana Ubilava (PhD student at Sydney Law School and ANJeL Executive Coordinator) can be viewed here. Our presentation is entitled “Australia’s recent investment treaty ratifications and reviews: The UN Transparency Convention and investor-state mediation”. It is based on Ana’s recent postings on investor-state mediation (her PhD thesis topic) for the Kluwer Mediation Blog (reproduced here) and for the Kluwer Arbitration Blog with Luke and Prof James Claxton, as well as her lead-authored chapter with Luke for his co-edited book on Asia-Pacific international business dispute resolution due out from Kluwer by end-2020:

Ubilava, Ana and Nottage, Luke R., Novel and Noteworthy Aspects of Australia’s Recent Investment Agreements and ISDS Policy: The CPTPP, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Mauritius Transparency Treaties (March 4, 2020). in Nottage, Luke; Ali, Shahla; Jetin, Bruno; Teramura, Nobumichi (eds), “New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution”, Wolters Kluwer, (Forthcoming) , Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 20/12, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3548358 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3548358

Our presentation updates for recent developments including DFAT’s public consultation to review Australia’s remaining BITs, with Luke’s Submission here and a related thought-provoking Clayton Utz / University of Sydney International Arbitration Lecture this year by Prof Zachary Douglas; but a summary of our original chapter manuscript is as follows.

Abstract: Investment treaties, and especially investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, became a political hot potato from around 2011 when Philip Morris brought the first-ever ISDS claim against Australia under an old bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Hong Kong. A Labor-Greens Government declared that it would no longer agree to ISDS provisions in future treaties, but when a centre-right Coalition Government regained power from 2013 it reverted to concluding treaties containing ISDS clauses on a case-by-case assessment. Australia therefore agreed to ISDS in FTAs with Korea and China, but not bilaterally with Japan. However ISDS-backed provisions apply between Australia and Japan since the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) can into force between them (and five other Asia-Pacific nations so far) from January 2019. Yet the Australian parliament engaged in robust debate about ratification of the CPTPP, with Labor Opposition (and Greens) parliamentarians continuing to voice concerns over ISDS provisions, despite the Philip Morris claim against Australia’s tobacco plain packaging having been rejected on jurisdictional grounds in 2015.

This paper examines how (US-style) CPTPP drafting compares with two important recent investment agreements subsequently signed by Australia over 2019, namely with Indonesia as part of a wider free trade agreement (IA-CEPA), and with Hong Kong (AHKIA, alongside a bilateral FTA covering non-investment matters). AHKIA came into force from 17 January 2020, while IA-CEPA has been ratified by Australia but not yet by Indonesia. IA-CEPA adds a provision unique in the universe of over 3000 investment agreements world-wide, probably proposed by the Indonesian side: a compulsory mediation step prior to arbitration, if the host state requests mediation after the foreign investor initiates ISDS. The paper also highlights other features of both treaties that may help reduce delays and hence costs in ISDS. The paper summarises empirical data about delays and costs, as well as transparency around ISDS as another growing public concern, including some of our own empirical data provided as evidence to an Australian parliamentary inquiry into ratifying the CPTPP.

We also examine the 2019 parliamentary inquiry that agreed with the submission that Australia should ratify the Mauritius (“UN ISDS”) Convention, thereby retrofitting extensive transparency provisions on pre-2014 treaties between Australia and other states that might also accede to that framework Convention. Even if Mauritius Convention ratifications proliferate, however, it will not retrofit extra transparency provisions to treaties concluded even after 1 April 2014 even among those states (say between Australia and Indonesia, where the investor chooses the ICSID Rules rather than UNCITRAL Rules option for arbitration). Accordingly, states ratifying the Mauritius Convention will still need to agree bilaterally to expand any still-limited transparency provisions in such post-2014 treaties, which is quite inefficient compared to a multilateral solution. Nonetheless, we conclude from these new developments that Australia is now better placed to play a more active role in guiding the future path of international investment treaty-making multilaterally and especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Pioneering Mandatory Investor-State Conciliation Before Arbitration in Asia-Pacific Treaties: IA-CEPA and HK-UAE BIT

Reproduced from the Kluwer Arbitration Blog, which subsequently ran a series on investor-state mediation; and written by: James Claxton (Rikkyo University), Luke Nottage (University of Sydney & Williams Trade Law), and Ana Ubilava (University of Sydney).

Arbitration has been the default dispute resolution mechanism in the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) regime for a long time. Provisions for third-party procedures other than arbitration have been relatively rare in older generation bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Even where those have provided in advance for the option of ICSID (Convention or Additional Facility) Conciliation Rules, investors have rarely invoked them. Only 13 cases have been filed since 1982 with four filed since 2016. The latest Conciliation Rules case was filed by Barrick Niugini Ltd against Papua New Guinea on 22 July 2020 under a mining lease contract. Barrick Niugini is a joint venture between Chinese Zijin Mining and Canadian Barrick Gold. In parallel, Barrick Gold’s Australian subsidiary instituted ICSID Convention arbitration on 11 August 2020 under the 1990 Australia-PNG BIT.

Over the past decade, calls have grown for other alternative dispute resolution mechanisms with a special focus on mediation. Mediation is believed to be a time- and cost-efficient dispute resolution mechanism that can prevent disputes from escalating to arbitration. Various stakeholders have taken up the call to facilitate and promote investor-state mediation. UNCITRAL Working Group III is discussing mediation in the context of ISDS reform and so is the Academic Forum on ISDS (see, for example, a March 2020 paper circulated for discussion). Mediator trainings are being offered for investor-state disputes, and ICSID is promulgating mediation rules for the first time that will be available even if neither the home nor host state has ICSID membership status. The UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (Singapore Convention) is also set to come into force from 12 September 2020. While this Singapore Convention does not extend expressly to investment disputes, there is broad agreement that at least some settlement agreements resulting from investor-State mediations will fall within its scope.

Some newer treaties include additional express references to mediation or conciliation in ISDS clauses, but disputing parties must agree separately and later to those procedures.1) While the use of such voluntary mediation may be growing, until recently there has been little to no interest in mandatory mediation – as a pre-condition to arbitration. Some still see mediation as unlikely to be or even incompatible with the aims of ISDS. Perceived obstacles include: (a) some States may have difficulty determining an authority to conclude settlements on their behalf; (b) settling an investment dispute could be associated with risks of personal liability and criminal prosecution (especially in developing economies or totalitarian States with weak rule of law); (c) settling a dispute could be considered an admission of guilt by the respondent State; (d) settlements do not pay as much as what a Claimant could be awarded through a successful award; (e) some investment disputes have non-monetary claims that require certain legislative or policy measures from the Respondent State which would go beyond the capacities of mediation; and (f) settlements promote secrecy of outcomes.

Several such arguments have been challenged through a recent empirical study analysing 541 concluded, treaty-based investor-state arbitration cases with the focus on settlement outcomes. The findings suggest that none of the key factors — such as the economic industry of the investment, size of the initial claim (or whether it was monetary or non-monetary), or the economic development status of the respondent state (and claimant home state) — have a negative impact on settlements. The study also found that in settlements the average compensation rate is 32%, very similar to that of the awarded-to-claimed compensation rate (31%). In addition, settlement agreements have been reached on non-pecuniary terms even when the claim was monetary, suggesting that the non-pecuniary claimed relief is not an unsurmountable impediment to reaching a settlement agreement. The study did find that settlements are associated with increased confidential outcomes compared to those ending in arbitration awards, but recently the rate of confidentiality for all outcomes has remained stable while the rate of settlements keeps falling. This suggests that leaving investor-state disputes to arbitration does not guarantee increased transparency either. Such findings, highlighting more potential for amicable settlements generally than many may have assumed, dovetail with emerging interest by investors and States in mandatory mediation. A forthcoming report by Queen Mary University of London finds that 64% of respondents (mostly in-house counsel plus some management representatives of firms investing internationally) favour integrating mediation as a mandatory pre-condition to arbitration in ISDS.

Already, the new Hong-Kong-United Arab Emirates BIT (HK-UAE BIT) and the Indonesia-Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership (IA-CEPA) free trade agreement, add unusual provisions for mandatory conciliation as a pre-condition to arbitration. These provisions mark a break with existing IIAs that do not even mention mediation or conciliation – much less make such provisions mandatory. Under the HK-UAE BIT and IA-CEPA, both signed in 2019, respondent States can require claimant investors to attempt conciliation before they can raise their claims in arbitration. Investors do not have the same right to mandatory conciliation. Both of the treaties carve dispute resolution out of their most-favoured nation provisions (Art. 14.5(3) of IA-CEPA and Art. 4(8) of the HK-UAE BIT), which means that there is no risk that this conciliation requirement can be circumvented by investors on the basis of MFN treatment.

These provisions mark an innovative approach to conciliation and a significant rethinking of its place in the ISDS system. They coincide with ongoing attempts to put States on better footing to manage and defend investor claims that include control mechanisms on treaty interpretation, procedures to address frivolous claims, and the potential creation of a multilateral advisory centre. The State option to require mediation as a precondition to arbitration could serve as a model for other treaties, although the forthcoming Queen Mary report suggests that there may also be appetite for mandatory mediation among investors. Quite similarly, some commentators have argued that greater transparency around investor-state disputes can appeal to investors, not just host states, by highlighting state practices (such as discrimination in favour of well-organised local interests) that diminish overall welfare among more disparate citizens. Accordingly, in advocating compulsory investor-state mediation, reformers may find more widespread support than expected.

Nonetheless, to minimise the risks of just adding extra time and expense to ISDS proceedings, such provisions need to be well drafted. A separate analysis already identifies some uncertainties in interpretation, including for different timeframes established by IA-CEPA compared to the HK-UAE BIT. In theory, different timelines might be expected if the treaty involves a developing country, likely to have more inbound than outbound ISDS claims. Indeed, Indonesia seems more likely to have proposed the compulsory mediation step than Australia, as it has been subject to 7 inbound treaty-based claims according to UNCTAD (including a high-profile one brought ultimately unsuccessfully by Australian/British mining companies under the now-terminated 1992 Australia-Indonesia BIT). Indonesia has also mentioned mediation in UNCITRAL reform deliberations, whereas no compulsory mediation step was included in the Australia-Hong Kong BIT – even thought that too was signed in 2019.

Nonetheless, the HK-UAE BIT shows that even developed economies can be willing to add a compulsory investor-state mediation step. It seems more likely to have been proposed from the UAE side, as the latter has experienced 4 inbound claims (although its outbound investors have also initiated 12), whereas Hong Kong has not been subject to any – although Hong Kong has also been trying to position itself as a hub for investor-state mediations generally. Just as Lauge Poulsen’s earlier empirical research showed a significant (though temporary) slowdown in investment treaty signings after a host state’s first inbound ISDS claim, it may be that states subject to several claims become more likely to negotiate for compulsory investor-state mediation provisions. Australia instead has only been subject to one serious inbound claim, albeit the very high-profile Philip Morris Asia claim brought unsuccessfully under the now-terminated 1993 BIT with Hong Kong, and its government may be mindful that Australian investors (especially resources companies) are now initiating quite a few outbound claims. Accordingly, even if a counterparty proposes a compulsory mediation step (like Hong Kong may have done for the new BIT), Australia may be less likely to agree unless pressed strongly (as Indonesia may have done with IA-CEPA).

If such hypotheses are plausible, it may take more sustained effort to “nudge” more states towards adding such compulsory investor-state mediation provisions in addition to the default arbitration clause. This could be done through international bodies (UNCITRAL, ICSID, UNCITRAL and the OECD) but also widespread consultation among stakeholders domestically, including firms or industry groups interested in outbound investment as well as the civil society groups that are typically more concerned about inbound ISDS claims. Broader discussion is needed anyway as Poulsen’s study reveals how “status quo bias” extends to treaty negotiators, and jurists may be particularly risk averse and wedded to precedent. A rethink may be particularly timely as concerns are emerging, including in Australia, about potential ISDS claims in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian government has also just announced public consultation to review remaining older bilateral investment treaties. One question for stakeholder submissions is whether those should incorporate modern provisions from Australia’s FTA practice. Compulsory mediation before arbitration is not specifically mentioned but is worth considering.

Book in Press with Elgar: ‘International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration – Australia and Japan in Regional and Global Contexts’

[The following book’s 160,000-word manuscript has just been submitted to Elgar, to be published in early 2021, after careful kind proof-reading by James Tanna (CAPLUS student intern, 2020) and research assistance from Dr Nobumichi Teramura (CAPLUS Associate and co-editor/author in other works).]

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many international arbitrations online, potentially making the field increasingly global and informal, as arbitrators adopt more efficient procedures and experience fewer challenges. But will it last? We have seen a similar trend before, over the 1990s, reacting to concerns over growing costs and delays over the 1970s and 1980s, linked to the influx of Anglo-American law firms into the international commercial arbitration world. Yet formalisation has resurfaced over the last 10-15 years, despite arbitration’s move East and consequent globalisation, partly due to the rapid growth of treaty-based investor-state arbitration. This 12-chapter book examines how international commercial and investor-state arbitration has been framed by this evolving relationship between twin tensions, ‘in/formalisation’ and ‘glocalisation’. Interweaving historical, comparative, empirical and doctrinal research over two decades [updating and expanding several publications hyperlinked below], the book focuses on attempts by Australia and Japan to become less peripheral players in international arbitration, especially in Asia-Pacific context.

Keywords: international dispute resolution, international commercial arbitration, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), foreign investment (FDI), Asian and comparative law, treaty-making and law reform processes

Special features: The book (1) combines analysis of both international commercial and investment treaty arbitration, (2) using mixed methods (historical, comparative, empirical and doctrinal research), (3) presenting the first detailed comparison of Australia and Japan, (4) drawing implications for their stakeholders as well as post-pandemic arbitratio

Chapter 1. In/formalisation and Glocalisation Tensions in International Arbitration

Abstract: This introductory Chapter outlines the trajectory of two growing fields of cross-border dispute resolution – international commercial arbitration (Part I of the Book) and international investment treaty arbitration (Part III) – as well as some crossovers (Part II). Australia and Japan, bearing important similarities in both fields and a few significant differences, are examined in Asia-Pacific and global contexts. An evolving and complex tension emerges between more formal versus informal approaches within international arbitration (‘in/formalisation’) and between globalisation and national or local circumstances (‘glocalisation’). International arbitration was first quite informal yet global, then became more formalised under growing influence of the common law tradition. It then saw some pushback towards more informal (or at least speedier) arbitrations amidst further globalisation over the 1990s, a tendency now re-emerging amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet the last 10-15 years have seen resurgent costs and delays, which could well resurface.

Part I: International Commercial Arbitration in Japan and Australia

2. The Vicissitudes of Transnational Commercial Arbitration and the Lex Mercatoria: A View from the Periphery

Abstract: This Chapter outlines two important empirical studies from the 1990s, setting an historical and theoretical benchmark for assessing the past and future of international arbitration. Those highlighted a growing formalisation of international commercial arbitration’s over the 1970s and 1980s, influenced by growing influence from Anglo-American legal practice. Yet this Chapter finds some pushback by the late 1990s towards more informal and global approaches. It also highlights further historical contingency by outlining Japan’s attempts around then to revamp its arbitration law. Although that was partly aimed at meeting the evolving international standard, epitomised by the UNCITRAL Model Law, it was part of a much wider justice reform program over 1999-2004 focusing primarily on domestic dispute resolution. Such ‘localised globalism’ contrasts with Japan’s efforts from 2018 to promote itself as another regional hub for international arbitration (outlined in Chapter 4), which therefore instead suggest more ‘localised globalism’.

3. The Procedural Lex Mercatoria: The Past, Present and Future of International Commercial Arbitration

Abstract: The substantive lex mercatoria (international contract law) is showing signs of growing formalisation. Similarly, international commercial arbitration law and practice – as the procedural lex mercatoria – became increasingly formalised over the 1980s. However, during the 1990s there was some shift back towards more informalism (especially to regain the advantage of speedier proceedings compared to cross-border litigation) as well as more global solutions to major issues arising in the arbitration world. This is illustrated by outlining developments across thirteen key ‘pressure points’ in international commercial arbitration law and practice, covering hot topics related to the arbitration agreement, arbitral procedure, award enforcement, and overarching issues. The Chapter indicates scope for further and more consistent developments towards restoring globalised and informal approaches. Yet it leaves open the possibility of international arbitration reverting to greater formalisation – in fact found especially over the last 10-15 years (as illustrated in Part II of this Book).

4. Japan’s Arbitration Law of 2003: Early and Recent Assessments

Abstract: Japan’s Arbitration Act 2003 was part of justice system reforms focused on domestic dispute resolution, although based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. The Act left few major interpretive issues, and created scope eventually to enhance international arbitration in Japan. Yet neither type of cases has grown significantly. There were also significant continuities evident from the persistent use of Arb-Med to promote early settlement during arbitrations. The stagnation in annual arbitration filings cannot be linked to adverse Japanese case law. That developed in an internationalist, pro-arbitration spirit, evident through a comparative analysis for example with Australian case law. Other institutional barriers to arbitration remain, despite Japan’s new initiatives since 2018 demonstrating ‘localised globalism’. General, organisational and legal culture in Japan will likely keep mutually reinforcing economically rational motivations helping to curb costs and delays in dispute resolution, even as Japan now seeks to promote international arbitration through updated global models.

5. International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: What’s New and What’s Next?

Abstract: Not much had changed by 2013, after Australia amended in 2010 its International Arbitration Act 1974, incorporating most of the 2006 revisions to the UNCITRAL Model Law. There was no evidence yet of a broader anticipated ‘cultural reform’ that would make international arbitration speedier and more cost-effective. One dispute engendered at least five sets of proceedings, including a constitutional challenge. Case disposition statistics for Federal Court cases decided three years before and after the 2010 amendments revealed minor differences. Various further statutory amendments therefore seemed advisable to encourage a more internationalist interpretation. However, an updated analysis notes only a few minor revisions. There remains a significant step-up in annual cases filed under the Act, and some improved Federal Court case disposition times only since 2017. Despite generally more pro-arbitration case law, challenges remain in pushing international arbitration in Australia towards a more informal (especially time- and cost-effective) and global approach.

Part II: Crossovers from International Commercial to Investor-State Arbitration

6. In/formalisation and Glocalisation of International Commercial Arbitration and Investment Treaty Arbitration in Asia

Abstract: International (commercial) arbitration has experienced a dramatic diffusion from West to East, but ‘in/formalisation’ and ‘glocalisation’ tensions endure. Empirical research shows that delays and especially costs have been escalating world-wide, reflecting and promoting formalisation. This is not just due the growing volume and complexity of deals and disputes. It parallels a dramatic worldwide expansion of international law firms, and large home-grown law firms emerging in Asia. Confidentiality in arbitration exacerbates information asymmetries, dampening competition. Such developments are particularly problematic as large law firms have moved into investment treaty arbitration. Yet moves underway towards greater transparency in that burgeoning and overlapping field could eventually help reduce some of these problems. Somewhat ironically, they are likely to persist in the world of international commercial arbitration despite the growing concerns of users themselves, including a new wave of Asian companies that have started to resolve commercial disputes through international arbitration.

7. A Weather Map for International Arbitration: Mainly Sunny, Some Cloud, Possible Thunderstorms

Abstract: This Chapter helps anticipate the future trajectory of international arbitration by first revisiting how Anglo-American influence over the 1970s and 1980s contributed to the formalisation of international arbitration, generating costs and delays. Over the 1950s and 1960s, many cases involved investment disputes with host states, yet the normative paradigm was more global and informal. Despite arbitration’s ‘move East’ over the last 20 years, formalisation of international commercial arbitration persists, linked to information asymmetries. Investment treaty arbitration may exert counterbalancing influence, through its greater transparency. Yet it risks promoting even greater formalization, and there are serious doubts about its long-term viability, including in Asia. The main theoretical underpinning for international commercial arbitration has settled into a variant of ‘neoclassical’ theory in contract law, with some recent arguments for even greater formalisation, but investment treaty arbitration opens the possibility for more theoretical diversity and therefore debate about international arbitration’s foundations and future.

8. Confidentiality versus Transparency in International Commercial and Investor-State Arbitration in Australia and Japan

Abstract: Confidentiality is still widely seen as significant advantage of international commercial arbitration over cross-border litigation, especially in Asia. This is evident in most arbitral rules, and many arbitration statutes – including eventually in Australia. Yet no confidentiality is provided in Japan’s later adoption of the Model Law, although parties mostly choose local arbitral institutions so opt-in to their Rules, which have somewhat expanded confidentiality obligations since 2014. Another recent complication is growing public concern over arbitration procedures through (especially treaty-based) investor-state dispute settlement, particularly in Australia. Statutory amendments in 2018 reverse automatic confidentiality for Australia-seated arbitrations applying the 2014 UNCITRAL Transparency Rules. Yet such concerns may impede enactment of provisions extending confidentiality to court proceedings involving commercial arbitrations. Confidentiality could allow more informal and efficient arbitrations, but exacerbate information asymetries allowing service providers increase costs. Greater transparency is more justified (and increasingly found) in investment arbitration, implicating greater public interests.

Part III: International Investment Treaties and Investor-State Arbitration

9. Throwing the Baby with the Bathwater: Australia’s 2011-13 Policy Against Treaty-Based Investor-State Arbitration

Abstract: Treaties allowing investors to initiate arbitration claims directly against host states, for illegally interfering with cross-border investments, are increasingly common in Asia. Yet a centre-left government declared over 2011-2013 that Australia would no longer include such protections in future treaties. This risked undermining the entire investor-state arbitration system, and major then-pending treaty negotiations by Australia with Japan, China and Korea, significantly reducing FDI flows and having other adverse effects. This Chapter criticises the underlying cost-benefit analysis conducted in 2010 by an Australian government think-tank. The arguments and evidence are more nuanced, justifying more tailored and moderate changes for future treaties. Yet an interest-group analysis suggests surprisingly few public or private constituencies preferring such reforms, and the problem could spread around Asia. A sharp shift would indicate a more idiosyncratic, nation-centric rather than global approach, but with somewhat mixed effects regarding formalisation of the overall international arbitration field.

10. Investor-State Arbitration: Why Not in the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement?

Abstract: Japan signed a bilateral Free Trade Agreement with Australia in 2014, notably omitting investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Japan seems not to have offered enough to secure this extra protection for its firms’ investments in Australia, for the latter to risk domestic political controversy. Japan probably also hoped to obtain the protection through a mega-regional treaty– in fact achieved from 2019. The omission should also be understood in the wider context of Japan’s investment treaty practice. That was initially belated and flexible, but has become more pro-active since 2013. Japan’s practice overall presents another example of ‘localised globalism’. Japan’s treaties have also become more formalised as they have adopted more consistently US-style drafting since 2002 (like Australia). This greater detail may perversely result in to more costs and delays if and when the mostly ISDS-backed treaty provisions are invoked. Yet there are few claims formally pursued by Japanese investors, and none yet filed against Japan.

11. Investor-State Arbitration Policy and Practice in Australia

Abstract: Australia has investment treaties in force with 32 economies, all with investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), except regarding New Zealand and the USA. Yet ISDS only started being debated politically as Australia signed its FTA with the US in 2004, and particularly around 2011 when a mega-regional treaty was being negotiated and Philip Morris Asia brought the first ISDS claim against Australia over tobacco controls. A centre-left Government over 2011-13 eschewed ISDS for future treaties, but centre-right governments reverted to allowing it on a case-by-case assessment, and the Greens’ ‘anti-ISDS’ Bill went nowhere. The debate belatedly raised awareness of how Australia’s domestic law provides some lesser investment protections than under international law. More bipartisanship has been emerging since 2019. Australia may therefore keep reverting to a more globalised approach towards ISDS, while continuing to target reforms that can reduce formalisation, particularly in the form of ISDS-related costs and delays.

12: Beyond the Pandemic: Towards More Global and Informal Approaches to International Arbitration

Abstract: Overall, this Book traces the trajectory of both international commercial arbitration and investor-state arbitration, especially since the 1990s, focusing on Australia and Japan in regional and global contexts. It demonstrates the usefulness of the dual themes or vectors of ‘in/formalisation’ and ‘glocalisation’ for understanding the past and for assessing future developments in international arbitration. Part I of this Chapter considers the longer-term impact of the COVID-19 pandemic from 2020. It speculates about the future for the observed proliferation of webinars, and the pandemic’s push towards virtual hearings or e-arbitrations, as well as further diversification of arbitral seats – including potentially for Australia and Japan. Part II ends more normatively with recommendations for more productive cooperation, bilaterally but also regionally, among academics, lawyers and arbitrators, judges and governments. It identifies key Asia-Pacific organisations and opportunities for promoting a global and somewhat more informal approach to international arbitration into the 21st century.

Guest Blog by Michael Hwang: Foreword, for Nottage, Ali, Jetin & Teramura (eds) New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Wolters Kluwer, end-2020)

Written by: Dr Michael Hwang SC

This is a book which looks forward to possible future outcomes in the development of cross-border dispute resolution in the Asia-Pacific region, focusing on major economies in East and South Asia, as well as neighbouring countries such as Australia which are closely linked economically and geographically. The principal questions posed are: (a) whether international commercial arbitration can improve its attractiveness through law reform and case law development, overcoming criticisms about cost and delay; (b) whether growing concerns about ISDS issues in current investment treaties will lead to Asian states to become rule-makers in international investment law, rather than continue as rule takers; (c) whether innovations in existing or new fields can assist the Asia-Pacific region to develop international dispute settlement mechanisms further. It is therefore an exciting book that challenges existing procedures and frameworks for cross-border dispute resolution both in commercial as well as in treaty arbitration, rather than being another book which is simply descriptive of the existing mechanisms (valuable as such books might be).

There are clearly catalysts for change within the existing framework of dispute resolution in Asia, and several could be real game changers, like China’s Belt and Road initiative (examined in detail in Chapter 7) and the Singapore Convention on Mediation (Chapter 14). The team of writers specially assembled for this project have impressive credentials, led by the prolific and perceptive Professor Luke Nottage, and supported by several authors whom I have the privilege of knowing personally, and whose work I can wholeheartedly recommend as being worth reading, both for their knowledge and experience, but particularly for their insight.

The various authors are not simply writing about existing practices and procedures in the region, but are examining the situation on the ground with a critical eye, and making informed observations about where changes are needed and educated guesses about the chances of reforms being successful, and the consequences if they are not. It has been written in the time of COVID-19 and accordingly points out the special challenges to the field of international dispute resolution in this unprecedented situation. Those include whether lawyers can adapt to new technological solutions to overcome the difficulties of conducting virtual hearings, and whether players in the field of dispute resolution can continue to afford the time and cost of long drawn-out forensic procedures to resolve the inevitable disputes that have been caused by the pandemic, or whether there will be added impetus to use mediation in place of confrontation. There are also protectionist issues affecting the future of maintaining the rule of law in settling cross-border commercial disputes. Local judges might be influenced by the fact that certain apparent breaches of contract have been caused by events beyond the control of their local businesspeople, and the law may become stretched or even disregarded for what may be perceived to be a fairer commercial solution, when performance of a contractual obligation has been rendered impossible in the light of conditions brought on by the pandemic. Such situations could lead possibly to foreign judgments and/or foreign arbitration awards not being recognised or enforced, relying on an overly liberal interpretation of the doctrine of public policy to justify such non-enforcement.

There are also challenges arising from internal social and political challenges in certain Asian jurisdictions such as Malaysia and Hong Kong, where rule of law issues may affect investor confidence in those territories. This mistrust of the application of the rule of law will likely also lead to an international lack of confidence in the reliability of the dispute resolution system of the countries concerned, and Hong Kong in particular may find it difficult to maintain the hitherto proud record of independence and efficiency of its courts and arbitral tribunals. And there are legacy challenges which were there in several Asian countries before Covid-19 and remain as challenges to be overcome, without which their attractiveness as international investment and commercial centres will surely decrease if the legacy problems are not resolved.

The best introduction to this book is actually to start from the succinct final chapter (Chapter 15) jointly authored by Professors Anselmo Reyes, Shahla Ali and Nobumichi Teramura. This gives an excellent summary of the aims and contents of the 14 preceding chapters, and will highlight to readers which chapters might be of particular interest and therefore help determine in which order to read which chapters, although all 14 are worth reading.
I therefore congratulate Professors Nottage, Ali, Jetin and Teramura and their team of other authors on producing a timely and lively study. It will certainly stimulate ideas and discussion among its readers and perhaps also contribute to some positive changes in the jurisdictions which are the subject of this critical study.

New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Luke Nottage, Shahla Ali, Bruno Jetin & Nobumichi Teramura, eds., Wolters Kluwer, end-2020): Abstracts, Keywords, Bios & Webinar

Below are summaries and author bios of the 15 chapters in our forthcoming book, building on a joint HKU/USydney project throughout 2019 background and draft bios here), with a Foreword by Michael Hwang SC here. Please consider registering or telling your networks about a free Webinar with the co-editors, some authors and others, scheduled for Tuesday 4 August 2020 5-6pm (Sydney time): https://law-events.sydney.edu.au/talkevents/beyond-the-pandemic-new-frontiers-in-asia-pacific-international-dispute-resolution

  1. Introduction: New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific Trade, Investment and International Business Dispute Resolution –Luke Nottage & Bruno Jetin

Abstract: Asia-Pacific trade and investment flows have burgeoned over recent decades, albeit impacted by China-US trade tensions and especially the COVID-19 pandemic (§1.02). International investment agreements have proliferated to liberalise and protect investments (§1.03), mostly adding the option of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Asia-related ISDS cases have also started to grow, albeit somewhat belatedly (§1.04), complementing a more longstanding upward trend in international commercial arbitration (ICA) cases involving Asian parties filed in the region as well as the traditional Western centres (§1.05). The eastward shift in international dispute resolution has already involved initiatives to improve not just support for ICA and ISDS arbitrations, but also to develop alternatives such as international commercial courts and mediation. Core arguments from ensuing chapters (§1.06) cover the main existing venues for international dispute resolution in Asia (China, Hong Kong and Singapore) but also some emerging contenders (Japan, Malaysia, India and Australia). Overall (§1.07), can ICA venues improve their attractiveness through law reforms, case law development and other measures, despite growing concerns about costs and delays? Will some emerging concerns about ISDS prompt Asia-Pacific states to become more active “rule makers” in international investment law? How might these issues be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Keywords: international trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), free trade agreements (FTAs), international investment treaties, international economic law, arbitration, mediation, international commercial courts, Asia, COVID-1

2. An International Commercial Court for Australia: An Idea Worth Taking to Market – Marilyn Warren & Clyde Croft

The time has come for Australia to join others in establishing a new “International Commercial Court” as another international dispute resolution option especially for the Asia-Pacific region. This chapter outlines the existing international legislative architecture (the 1958 NYC for international arbitration, inspiring the 2005 Hague Choice of Court Convention), and the models provided by London’s venerable Commercial Court and since 2015 the Singapore International Commercial Court (including the latter’s composition, jurisdiction, procedure and confidentiality provisions, appeals, and cross-border enforceability of its judgements – facilitated by Singapore ratifying the 2005 Hague Convention). It uses these topics to frame the proposal for an Australian International Commercial Court, including the possibility of allowing its litigants to exclude the application of the Australian Consumer Law (which otherwise may apply also to many business-to-business disputes). It concludes that the COVID-19 pandemic has bolstered the case for such a new Court, by minimising the obstacle of Australia’s physical distance as litigation has had to move rapidly online, and because the pandemic’s economic dislocation will undoubtedly lead to more cross-border disputes.

Keywords: international arbitration, international litigation, international commercial courts, Australia, Singapore, United Kingdom, COVID-13.

3. New Frontiers for International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: Beyond the ‘Lucky Country’ – Albert Monichino & Nobumichi Teramura

Abstract: Australia is not a lucky country in the context of international commercial arbitration (ICA) due to its geographical isolation. However, the problem of remoteness has luckily been ameliorated since the COVID-19 pandemic, thanks to the dramatic spread of video-conferencing technologies in arbitrations and even in some court proceedings. ‘Luck’ can no longer excuse Australia for running behind other regional competitors. Analysing recent cases in Australian judiciary, this chapter puts forward seven proposals for legislative reform that may be useful for Australia to attract more ICA cases on its shores: establishing an indemnity costs principle for failed challenges in ICA matters, notably regarding arbitral awards; enabling Australian courts to issue subpoenas to support foreign arbitrations; clarifying choice of law rules on the existence and scope of arbitration agreements; limiting or excluding the application of Australian Consumer Law to cross-border business-to-business transactions; defining ‘Australian Law’; provisions to catch up with recent arbitration innovations; clarifying arbitrability of trust disputes; and centralising judicial power for ICA appeals. Implementing those proposals will pave the way for Australia to become an attractive arbitration hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

Keywords: Australia, international commercial arbitration, International Arbitration Act, Commercial Arbitration Act, law reform, COVID-19, e-proceedings. 

4. Confidentiality and Transparency in International Arbitration: Asia-Pacific Tensions and Expectations – Luke Nottage

Abstract: Confidentiality is considered a significant advantage for international commercial arbitration over cross-border litigation, as seen in rules of most arbitral institutions. Automatic (opt-out) confidentiality is also now found in many national laws, including statutory add-ons to the UNCITRAL Model Law and/or through case law for example in New Zealand, then Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and eventually Australia. Yet there remain variations in the timing of these developments as well as the scope and procedures associated with exceptions. There is also no confidentiality provided in Japan’s later Model Law adoption, although parties mostly choose the JCAA so opt-in to its Rules, which have gradually extended confidentiality obligations. Another complication is growing public concern over arbitration procedures through investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), particularly in Australia since an ultimately unsuccessful treaty claim by Philip Morris. Statutory amendments in 2018 reverse automatic confidentiality for Australia-seated ISDS arbitrations applying the 2014 UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency. Concerns over ISDS may even impede Australia enacting provisions for confidentiality of arbitration-related court proceedings. These provisions could not be revised recently in New Zealand, against the backdrop of its new government’s anti-ISDS stance. This chapter elaborates such expectations and tensions regarding the double-edged sword of confidentiality in international arbitration, focusing on Australia and Japan in regional context.

Keywords: international commercial arbitration, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), confidentiality, transparency, Australia, Japan, Asia, costs, delays, law reform

5. Novel and Noteworthy Aspects of Australia’s Recent Investment Agreements and ISDS Policy: The CPTPP, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Mauritius Transparency Treaties – Ana Ubilava & Luke Nottage

Abstract: This chapter updates on recent investment treaty practice by Australia, which attracted regional and global attention when a centre-left government over 2011-13 declared Australia would no longer agree to ISDS provisions when negotiating further treaties. The chapter compares substantive commitments and ISDS provisions in Australia’s treaties signed with Indonesia and Hong Kong in 2019 (IA-CEPA and AHKIA) compared especially with the mega-regional CPTPP signed in 2018. The new bilateral treaties remain quite heavily influenced by US-style drafting, epitomised by the CPTPP. The chapter then elaborates on the costs and delays associated with ISA. It examines empirical studies, then relevant provisions of the three new treaties, including an innovative investor-state mediation provision in IA-CEPA probably proposed by Indonesia. The chapter also considers transparency of proceedings and outcomes. It again examines mainly CPTPP, IA-CEPA and AHKIA, but also a parliamentary inquiry into Australia ratifying the Mauritius Convention. This seeks to retrofit extensive transparency provisions on pre-2014 treaties between Australia and other states that might also accede to that framework Convention. More bipartisanship may be emerging in domestic politics regarding international investment treaty-marking, so Australia is now better placed to play a more active role especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

Keywords: Investment treaties, Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, mediation, arbitration, transparency, costs, delay

6. New Frontiers in Hong Kong’s Resolution of ‘One Belt One Road’ International Commercial and Investor-State Disputes – Shahla Ali

Abstract: Given the rapid increase in Chinese outward foreign direct investment since the start of the ‘One Belt One Road’ Initiative (OBOR), international commercial and investor state disputes involving Chinese and Hong Kong investors will likely multiply. Given the significance of Hong Kong as a fulcrum for OBOR project financing and logistics, understanding Hong Kong’s approach to the resolution of OBOR disputes will offer a window into the region’s new frontiers in commercial and investor-state dispute resolution.

Keywords: international commercial arbitration, mediation, investment treaties, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), Hong Kong, China, Belt and Road

7. Harmonising the Public Policy Exception for International Commercial Arbitration along the ‘Belt and Road’ – Gu Weixia

Abstract: In context of a rising volume of cross-border transactions generated by the BRI, this chapter argues that a robust legal framework for dispute resolution is required to forge investor confidence and enable BRI’s integral goal of economic integration. In light of the substantial levels of harmonization among arbitration laws, arbitration is arguably constitutes the primary vehicle for international commercial dispute resolution in an economically integrated Asia under the BRI. Against this backdrop, this chapter argues that the BRI provides a unique opportunity to contemplate the possibility of regional harmonization, as within the Asian economies along the BRI, of the “public policy” exception to arbitral award enforcement. Such an arbitration initiative in Asia, in which China is anticipated to take a pro-active role, holds much potential to project renewed momentum on China as an engine of not only economic power, but also “soft power” transformation in pioneering international legal norms.

Keywords: international commercial arbitration, New York Convention, UNCITRAL Model Law, China, Belt and Road

8. Recent Developments in China in Cross-Border Dispute Resolution: Judicial Reforms in the Shadow of Political Conformity – Vivienne Bath

Abstract: The rapid expansion of China’s international trade and investment in the 21st century has necessarily brought with it the need for modern and effective cross-border dispute resolution mechanisms.  At the international level, China is playing an active role in the review of investor-state dispute settlement in UNCITRAL Working Group III and participating in dispute resolution developments in the WTO.  Domestically, the Supreme People’s Court has been working to set up new institutions (the China International Commercial Court), improve mechanisms for the review and enforcement of arbitral awards and encourage mediation, both domestically and internationally. Much of this activity has been generated and spurred on by the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the anticipated associated increase in cross-border disputes arising from the many commercial transactions involved in the BRI. Its execution also reflects the desire to encourage and expand the international use of Chinese law and build up China as a centre for international dispute resolution. At the same time, however, the Chinese Communist Party is tightening its ideological and administrative control over the courts and judicial system.  This chapter examines and discusses the implications of these recent developments.

Keywords:  China, arbitration, mediation, cross-border dispute resolution, one-stop diversified dispute resolution, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), online arbitration, communist party (CCP), Supreme People’s Court (SPC), China International Commercial Court (CICC)

9. Malaysia’s Involvement in International Business Dispute Resolution – A Vijayalakshmi Venugopal

Abstract: Malaysia has had some early but comparatively limited involvement in formally resolving trade disputes, but more engagement in investor-state dispute resolution – including as home state for investors bringing claims, not just as host state respondent. Some companies in Malaysia and its main international arbitration centre have also been involved in domain name dispute resolution. That centre and some other organisations have also long promoted various types of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), with renewed efforts in recent years to develop new procedures and attract more international commercial arbitrations. Malaysia has also been quite active in negotiating free trade agreements (FTAs). This creates a solid platform to comtinuing becoming more of a rule maker in international investment law as well as a significant regional hub for international business dispute resolution services, although Malaysia still has a way to go in both respects compared to larger Asia-Pacific economies and/or more established hubs.

Keywords: Malaysia, World Trade Organization (WTO), free trade agreements (FTAs), international investment treaties, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), domain name dispute resolution, settlement

10. Disruption as a Catalyst for International Dispute Services in Japan: No Longer Business as Usual? – James Claxton, Luke Nottage & Nobumichi Teramura

Abstract: The Japanese government, supported by various stakeholders, has recently been attempting to develop Japan as another regional hub for international business dispute resolution services. Tracking this development is important for both theoretical and practical reasons. How it unfolds should reveal which of various theories for explaining Japanese law-related behaviour have more traction nowadays, especially for international commercial arbitration but also for investor-state arbitration. Assessing the new initiatives is also important for legal practitioners and others interested in the practical question of where to arbitrate or mediate cross-border business disputes, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region. This chapter therefore focuses mainly on current attempts to promote existing and new international arbitration centres in Japan as well as the recent establishment of the Japan International Mediation Center – Kyoto. It locates such developments in the context of intensifying competition from other regional venues for dispute resolution services, but also the challenges and potential opportunities created by the COVID-19 pandemic since 2020.

Keywords: international commercial arbitration, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), mediation, Japan, culture, COVID-19

11. Litigating, Arbitrating and Mediating Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions – James Claxton, Luke Nottage & Brett Williams

Abstract: In July 2019, Japan introduced measures tightening export restrictions to South Korea on three chemicals critical to the manufacture of consumer electronics. The restrictions prompted an animated response by the Korean government, including World Trade Organization (WTO) consultations and threats to terminate an intelligence-sharing agreement. The controversy also filtered down to the public with boycotts of Japanese products in Korea. Tension between the states has been unusually high since 2018 when the Korean Supreme Court affirmed a judgment against Japanese companies accused of forcing Korean nationals to labour in factories during Japan’s colonial rule. Japan argued that these claims were precluded by a 1965 treaty normalizing post-war relations. While Japan claims that its trade restrictions were not motivated by the judgment, the disputes have contributed to the worst breakdown in cross-border relations in five decades. This chapter evaluates Korea’s trade claims against Japan, means of resolving them, and challenges faced in the WTO dispute settlement system. Alternatives or additions to WTO dispute settlement procedures are considered including claims before the International Court of Justice, interstate arbitration, and investor-state dispute settlement. Mediation offers an effective means to facilitate negotiations and centralise the trade and treaty disputes in a single forum.

Keywords: international trade law, World Trade Organization (WTO), exports, international investment treaties, investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), arbitration, mediation, Japan, Korea

12. Indian Investment Treaty and Arbitration Practice: Qualitatively and Quantitatively Assessing Recent Developments– Jaivir Singh

Abstract: This chapter provides a perspective of investment treaty practice from India, which lies at the periphery of what is traditionally associated with the Asia Pacific region. While on the periphery, India has signed investment and trade treaties with many Asia Pacific countries and is also involved in disputes with them. India had in fact endorsed a number of investment treaties with many countries around the world but has recently gone on to denounce all of them and seeks to renegotiate fresh treaties using a template provided by a new model treaty that is oriented towards privileging state rights. The chapter begins by a qualitative review of cases that have been instituted against India by investors, followed by a discussion of the many reactions that this has elicited – a new model treaty, subsequent denunciation of treaties, signing of new treaties and  attempting changes in the domestic law as a device to protect foreign investors.  The next half of the chapter assesses these outcomes by looking at econometric evidence pointing to a positive impact of investment treaties signed by India on foreign investment inflows into India, going on to argue that the manner in which state rights have been enhanced in the new treaties – drawing inspiration from trade law – demonstrably curbs investment.

Keywords: foreign direct investment (FDI), international investment treaties, arbitration, econometrics, law reform, India, Australia

13. FTA Dispute Resolution to Protect Health Can Free Trade Agreements and their Dispute Resolution Mechanisms Help Protect the Environment and Public Health? The CPTTP, MARPOL73/78 and COVID-19 – Jiaxiang Hu & Jeanne Huang

Abstract: Preventing or managing a global pandemic such as COVID-19 requires states to strictly comply with the International Health Regulations 2005 (IHR). However, the IHR lacks a strong enforcement mechanism, like many multilateral environmental protection agreements. Over the past fifteen years, several such conventions have been incorporated into free trade agreements (FTAs) to enhance State compliance and therefore promote environmental protection. A typical example is the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and its Protocols (MARPOL 73/78). Vessels, like viruses, are globally mobile. Vessel-sourced pollution also mirrors human-carried viral infection, because the locations of potential harm are unpredictable and widespread. This Chapter examines first whether FTAs (especially mega-regional FTAs) can effectively encourage States to comply with MARPOL 73/78. Through this analysis, it generates implications regarding whether the IHR regime could also rely on new or renegotiated FTAs, or be reformed directly, to enhance state compliance with public health initiatives.

Keywords: free trade agreements (FTAs), environmental protection, public health, COVID-19, WHO, MARPOL, dispute resolution, arbitration, Asia-Pacific

14. Promoting International Mediation through the Singapore Convention – S.I. Strong

Abstract: This chapter seeks to determine whether and what extent the recent promulgation of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation will promote the use of mediation within the international legal and business communities. The discussion analyses the issue from a unique interdisciplinary perspective, applying concepts from dispute system design, default theory, psychology, and law and economics to both identify and resolve potential problems with the convention. The chapter also includes data from a recent empirical study conducted by the author on the use of mediation in international commercial disputes. Through this discussion, the chapter hopes to identify how individuals and institutions can complement the effect of the convention to support the development of international commercial mediation in the coming years.

Keywords: International mediation, treaty-making, law reform, Singapore Convention, interdisciplinary perspectives

15. Expanding Asia-Pacific Frontiers for International Dispute Resolution: Conclusions and Recommendations – Nobumichi Teramura, Shahla Ali & Anselmo Reyes

Abstract: Asia’s emergence as a global economic powerhouse has corresponded with a prolonged upward trend in international commercial arbitration (ICA) cases involving Asian parties, as well as a belated expansion of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitrations involving Asian states or investors. Further accelerating the eastward shift in international dispute resolution, various initiatives to improve support for ICA and ISDS have been taken and alternatives (such as international commercial courts and international commercial mediation) have been promoted. This book aimed to examine significant ‘new frontiers’ for Asia-Pacific cross-border business dispute resolution, focusing on major economies in East and South Asia and countries (such as Australia) that are closely linked economically and geographically. The principal questions posed were: (1) whether existing and new venues for ICA could improve their attractiveness through law reform, case law development, and other measures, despite worries about cost and delay; (2) whether emerging concerns about ISDS-backed investment treaty commitments would prompt Asian states to become rule-makers in international investment law, rather than be mere rule-takers; and (3) whether innovations in existing or new fields might assist the Asia-Pacific region to develop international dispute settlement further. The foregoing chapters have discussed these broad themes, focusing on developments in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong, China, India and Malaysia, while paying attention to broader regional initiatives (such as China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)) and recent international instruments (such as the Singapore Convention on Mediation, in force from 12 September 2020). This concluding chapter highlights key findings in the individual chapters and identifies some challenges for the post-COVID-19 era.

Keywords: international trade, foreign direct investment (FDI), free trade agreements (FTAs), international investment treaties, international economic law, arbitration, mediation, international commercial courts, Asia, COVID-19

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BIOS OF EDITORS AND CONTRIBUTORS

Dr Shahla Ali is Professor and Associate Dean (International) and Deputy Director of the LLM in Arbitration and Dispute Resolution at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong. Her research and practice center on questions of governance, development and the resolution of cross-border disputes in the Asia-Pacific region. Shahla is the author of Court Mediation Reform (Edward Elgar 2018), Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief (Cambridge University Press 2016), Consumer Financial Dispute Resolution in a Comparative Context (Cambridge University Press 2013), and Resolving Disputes in the Asia Pacific Region (Routledge 2010) and she writes for law journals in the area of comparative ADR. She has consulted with USAID, IFC/World Bank and the United Nations on issues pertaining to access to justice, peace process negotiation training and land use conflict resolution. She serves as a bilingual arbitrator (English/Chinese) with CIETAC, HKIAC (ADNDRC) and SIAC and has served on the IBA Drafting Committee for Investor-State Mediation Rules, the DOJ Mediation Regulatory Committee, the UN Mediation Roster and the FDRC Appointments Committee. Prior to HKU, she worked as an international trade attorney with Baker & McKenzie in its San Francisco office. She received her JD and PhD from UC Berkeley in Jurisprudence and Social Policy and BA from Stanford University.

Dr Bruno Jetin is Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Asian Studies, University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD). His current work focuses on the ASEAN Economic Community, the One Belt One Road initiative, Chinese investments in Southeast Asia, and the impact of income distribution on growth in Asia. He is also an expert in the automobile industry. Before joining UBD, he was a researcher at the Institute for Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC, CNRS-MAEE, Bangkok) and Associate Professor at the University of Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité, where he obtained his PhD in economics and was Deputy Director of the Research Center in Economics. He was also involved in promoting taxes on financial transactions as alternative sources for financing development as well as innovative regulation of global finance. Bruno’s recent publications include ASEAN Economic Community: A model for Asia-wide Integration? (Palgrave McMillan 2016, edited with Mia Mikic); Global Automobile Demand (Palgrave McMillan 2015, two edited volumes); International Investment Policy for Small States: The Case of Brunei, in International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (Julien Chaisse and Luke Nottage eds., Brill 2018, with Julien Chaisse); One Belt-One Road Initiative and ASEAN Connectivity, in  China’s Global Rebalancing and the New Silk Road (B.R. Deepak ed., Springer 2018).

Dr Luke Nottage is Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at the University of Sydney Law School, founding Co-Director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) and Special Counsel at Williams Trade Law. He specialises in comparative and transnational business law (especially arbitration and product safety law), with a particular interest in Japan and the Asia-Pacific. Luke has or had executive roles in the Australia-Japan Society (NSW), the Law Council of Australia’s International Law Section, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, and the Asia-Pacific Forum for International Arbitration. Luke is also a Rules committee member of the Australian Centre for International Arbitration (ACICA) and listed on the Panel of Arbitrators for the AIAC (formerly KLRCA), BAC, JCAA, KCAB, NZIAC, SCIA and TAI. Luke serves on Working Group 6 (examining arbitrator neutrality) for the Academic Forum on ISDS. He qualified as a lawyer in New Zealand in 1994 and in New South Wales in 2001, and has consulted for law firms and organisations world-wide (including ASEAN, the EC, OECD, UNCTAD and the Japanese government). His 16 other books include International Arbitration in Australia (Federation Press, 2010, eds) and International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018, eds). He is or has been Visiting Professor teaching and researching at universities throughout Asia, Oceania, Europe and North America.

Dr Nobumichi Teramura is an Associate at the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS) and Legal Consultant at Bun & Associates (Cambodia). He is the author of Ex Aequo et Bono as a Response to the Over-judicialisation of International Commercial Arbitration (Wolters Kluwer 2020), based on his doctoral thesis from the University of New South Wales that received a PhD Excellence Award when completed in 2018. Nobu also published recently in the Asian International Arbitration Journal (2019) and ASA Bulletin (2020), and has co-authored a chapter comparing Australia forthcoming in Larry di Matteo et al (eds) The Cambridge Handbook of Judicial Control of Arbitral Awards (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Specialising in commercial law, his current research interests include legal integration in Asia and legal development for South East Asian nations severely affected by colonisation and the Cold War, including Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. He has teaching and research experience in Asia-Pacific jurisdictions including the Philippines, Australia, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Cambodia and Brunei.

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Vivienne Bath is Professor of Chinese and International Business Law at Sydney Law School and Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS). Her teaching and research interests are in international business and economic law, private international law and Chinese law. She has first class honours in Chinese and in law from the Australian National University, and an LLM from Harvard Law School. She has also studied in China and Germany and has extensive professional experience in Sydney, New York and Hong Kong, specialising in international commercial law, with a focus on foreign investment and commercial transactions in China and the Asian region. Representative publications include: Vivienne Bath & Gabriël Moëns, Law of International Business in Australasia (2nd ed., Federation Press 2019); Overlapping Jurisdiction and the Resolution of Disputes before Chinese and Foreign Courts, 17 Yearbook of International Private Law 111-150 (2015-2016) and The South and Alternative Models of Trade and Investment Regulation – Chinese Outbound Investment and Approaches to International Investment Agreements, in Recalibrating International Investment Law: Global South Initiatives (Fabio Morosini & Michelle Ratton Sanchez Badin eds., Cambridge University Press 2018).

James Claxton is Professor of Law at Rikkyo University in Tokyo and Adjunct Faculty for the White & Case International Arbitration LL.M at University of Miami Law School, as well as an independent arbitrator and mediator. He teaches and researches in the fields of international investment law, business and human rights, and international dispute settlement. Previously, he was legal counsel at the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) in Washington and attorney in the international arbitration practices of law firms in Paris. James regularly advises dispute resolution institutions in Asia and is a member of various working groups devoted to improving international dispute resolution systems.

The Hon Clyde Croft AM SC is Professor of Law at Monash University in Melbourne, as well as a commercial arbitrator and mediator. Until retiring in 2019 he was the judge in charge of the Arbitration List, the Taxation List, and a General Commercial List in the Commercial Court of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Prior to his Court appointment in 2009, he practiced extensively in property and commercial law and was an arbitrator and mediator in property, construction and general commercial disputes, domestically and internationally. Dr Croft was appointed Senior Counsel in 2000 and holds the degrees of BEc, LLB and LLM from Monash University, and PhD from the University of Cambridge. He has chaired the Expert Advisory Committee of the UNCITRAL National Co-ordination Committee of Australia (UNCCA) to support UNCITRAL Working Group II (Disputes) since May 2018. He represented the Asia Pacific Regional Arbitration Group (APRAG) at UNCITRAL from 2005 to 2010, revising the UNCITRAL Model Law and Arbitration Rules, and later co-authored A Guide to the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules (Cambridge University Press, 2013). Dr Croft is a Life Fellow of the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) and of the Resolution Institute (incorporating the Institute of Arbitrators and Mediators Australia), a Fellow of the Arbitrators’ and Mediators’ Institute of New Zealand (AMINZ), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, the Australian Academy of Law and UNCCA.

Weixia Gu is Associate Professor at the University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law and Co-Chair of the American Society of International Law Asia-Pacific Interest Group. Her research focuses on international arbitration, dispute resolution, private international law and cross-border legal issues. She is the author, editor, and co-editor of 3 books, including The Developing World of Arbitration in the Asia Pacific (Hart, 2018) and Arbitration in China: Regulation of Arbitration Agreements and Practical Issues (Sweet & Maxwell, 2012). She is the author of more than 50 journal articles and her recent works appear in leading international and comparative law journals, such as the American Journal of Comparative Law, Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Cornell International Law Journal, among others. Her scholarship has been cited by the US Federal Court 11th Circuit, Texas Supreme Court, Hong Kong High Court, Singapore Law Gazette, and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade. Dr. Gu is an elected Member of the International Academy of Comparative Law, and sits on the governing councils of Hong Kong Institute of Arbitrators and China Society of Private International Law. She also serves as a panel-listed arbitrator in a number of leading arbitration institutions in China and Asia. Before joining the Faculty, she was selected as an Honorary Young Fellow to the New York University Law School in association with her Fulbright Award from the US Department of State.

Dr Hu Jiaxiang is Professor at the KoGuan Law School at the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. His research areas include public international law, international economic law and WTO law. He holds the degrees of BA and MA from Hangzhou University, MPhil in Law from Zhejiang University and PhD from the University of Edinburgh. In the past three decades, Professor Hu has published more than ten books and one hundred articles both in Chinese and English. He has been awarded various honours by the Ministry of Education of China and Shanghai Municipality for his excellence in teaching, and is currently leading several national research programmes.

Dr Jeanne Huang is Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Law School. She was previously Senior Lecturer at the University of New South Wales, and Associate Professor / Associate Dean at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics School of Law in China. She obtained her Doctor of Juridical Science (SJD) degree from Duke University School of Law in 2010. She was a Foreign Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative and International Private Law in Hamburg, and also had research experience at The Hague Academy of International Law, and the Paris-based Academy of International Arbitration Law. Jeanne teaches and researches in the fields of private international law, e-commerce regulation, international investment law and dispute resolution (international litigation and arbitration). She has published four books including Interregional Recognition and Enforcement of Civil and Commercial Judgments: Lessons for China from US and EU Laws (Hart, 2014) and her articles have appeared in many peer-reviewed law journals, with extensive competitive funding include from the China National Social Science Fund. In 2015, she won the First Prize of Excellent Scholarship awarded by the China Society of Private International Law and the Nomination Award of the Dong Biwu Prize for Youth Research in Law. Jeanne serves as an arbitrator at the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center, Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (Shanghai International Arbitration Center), Nanjing Arbitration Commission and Xi’an Arbitration Commission. She also serves as expert witness on issues of private international law and Chinese law in courts in Australia and the US.

Dr Michael Hwang SC is a Singapore-based international arbitrator. He was the Deputy Chief Justice of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) Courts upon its establishment in 2005, and subsequently appointed Chief Justice in 2010, retiring at the end of 2018. Throughout that period, he has continued practising as an international arbitrator in commercial and treaty arbitrations. He has written two volumes of essays on international arbitration and international dispute resolution respectively, and was awarded an honorary LLD from the University of Sydney.

Albert Monichino QC is a Melbourne-based barrister and arbitrator, with over 25 years of experience in resolving commercial disputes domestically and internationally. He was appointed Senior Counsel in 2010, and is a former Vice President (Convenor) and Co-Chair of the Arbitration and ADR Section for the Commercial Bar Association of the Victorian Bar (COMMBAR). Albert is a Chartered Arbitrator and Past President of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators Australian Branch (CIArb, 2014-17), and is a Fellow of CIArb, ACICA, the Resolution Institute and the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators. He writes extensively on international commercial arbitration in Australia and the Asia-Pacific, including an annual Australian survey for the Australian Dispute Resolution Journal.

Anselmo Reyes SC practises as an arbitrator. He was Professor of Legal Practice at Hong Kong University from October 2012 to September 2018. Before that, he was a judge of the Hong Kong High Court from September 2003 to September 2012, when he was in charge of the Construction and Arbitration List (2004-8) and the Commercial and Admiralty Lists (2008-12). He was Representative of the Hague Conference on Private International Law’s Regional Office Asia Pacific from April 2013 to July 2017. He became an International Judge of the Singapore International Commercial Court in January 2015.

Dr Jaivir Singh is Professor at the Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, having previously taught at the University of Delhi. Trained as an economist at the Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi, his research work aims at an interdisciplinary exploration of the interaction between the law and the economy. He has published on diverse topics including the Indian Constitution, Regulation, Labour Law, Competition Law, Corporate Law and International Investment Treaties.

Dr S.I. Strong is an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney Law School, specialising in international dispute resolution and comparative law, particularly international commercial arbitration and large-scale (class and collective) suits. Prior to joining the University of Sydney, she taught at the Universities of Cambridge and Oxford as well as Georgetown Law Center and the University of Missouri. Dr Strong is an experienced practitioner, having acted as Counsel at Baker & McKenzie after working as a dual-qualified lawyer (US attorney and English solicitor) in the New York and London offices of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. She has published over 130 award-winning books, chapters and articles in Europe, Asia and the Americas, including Legal Reasoning Across Commercial Disputes: Comparing Judicial and Arbitral Analyses (anticipated 2021), Arbitration of Trust Disputes: Issues in National and International Law (2016), and Class, Mass, and Collective Arbitration in National and International Law (2013) fromOxford University Press as well as International Commercial Arbitration: A Guide for U.S. Judges (2012) from the Federal Judicial Center. Dr Strong’s scholarly work has been translated into Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese and has been cited as authority by numerous state and federal courts and international tribunals. She Strong sits as an arbitrator and mediator on a variety of international commercial and trust-related matters. 

Ana Ubilava is a Research Assistant and PhD candidate at the University of Sydney Law School, where she is in the final stages of completing a thesis on investor-state mediation. She has published on international dispute resolution in several periodicals including the Journal of World Investment and Trade. Ana is also Executive Coordinator of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL).

The Hon Marilyn Warren AC QC is a Vice-Chancellor’s Professorial Fellow at Monash University, where she is a member of its Global Leaders Summit, and teaches postgraduate commercial law and international arbitration. She was a long-serving Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria (2003-2017), and earlier on that Court (1998-2003) included service as the Judge in Charge of the Commercial List and the Corporations List (now combined as the Commercial Court). Professor Warren was a foundation Council member of the Asian Business Law Institute in Singapore. She now also sits as a domestic and international commercial arbitrator, and is a member of the Dawson Chambers Senior Arbitrator Group at the Victorian Bar (where she became Queen’s Counsel in 1997). 

A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal is Senior Lecturer at Taylor’s University Law School in Malaysia. Her teaching and postgraduate supervisory experience includes WTO law, international dispute resolution, international sale of goods and intellectual property law. She was a visiting lecturer at the University of Rotterdam Business School. She holds Masters degrees in law and educational psychology, and has presented conference papers in these fields. She is the author of three books, and articles in peer-reviewed law journals.

Dr Brett Williams, an Australian Legal Practitioneris the principal of Williams Trade Law and an Honorary Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney Law School. His legal practice specialises in the law of the World Trade Organization and of bilateral and regional trade agreements, including representation in WTO dispute settlement, accession issues, and also trade issues under Australian law. He has taught WTO law at Sydney Law School since 2001 and is a Research Affiliate of both the Sydney Centre International Law and the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney. His publications include the co-edited book China and the World Trade System (Cambridge University Press, 2003), building on his PhD research, and articles on WTO negotiations on agricultural trade, China’s WTO accession, trade in services and innovations in dispute settlement mechanisms in trade agreements. Brett also serves on the Editorial Board of the Australian International Law Journal. He has held various professional positions, including on the Executive of the International Law Section of the Law Council of Australia (2012-2016) and as inaugural co-chair of the International Economic Law Interest Group of the Australia New Zealand Society of International Law (2010-2012).

Submission to ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) upgrade consultation

[The following analysis provided to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Regional Trade Agreements Division) is relevant also for assessing Australia’s other trade and investment agreements, including with Japan bilaterally and through regional treaties such as the CPTPP and the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.]

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission to this important public consultation. I see some others are online,[1] and please upload there my present submission. Unfortunately other commitments probably preclude my attendance at the Thursday 2 April meetings in Sydney, but please let me know that day’s timetable as one or more of my co-researchers cited below may be willing and able to attend.

1. For the Services chapter, an important matter for Australia to review will be provisions around delivery of education. The coronavirus epidemic this year has highlighted that Australia’s FTAs (even more recent ones as with China) often do not include commitments allowing cross-border supply (ie service delivery over the internet), which may otherwise conflict with the national laws in our overseas partners.[2] As well as negotiating more expansive commitments, Australia should seek to draft in provisions around procedures for meeting and discussing urgently with counterparties about counter-measures during public health emergencies, as suggested by our A/Prof Jeanne Huang at the recent SCIL International Law in Review conference (in the context of China-Australia FTA upgrades). Such procedural provisions could also be extended to other chapters, including Trade in Goods.

2. For the Investment chapter, AANZFTA in 2009 originally lacked significant liberalisation commitments.[3] A work program for negotiations around expanding market access was envisaged but never completed.[4] This AANZFTA upgrade should at least lock in (through Schedules) liberalisation commitments made under other treaties concluded by Australia with counterpart ASEAN states (including the still undisclosed RCEP), but should go further to provide “value added”. If a Work Program is agreed for further negotiations, the revised AANZFTA should include commitments about when and how to meet, including provisions allowing for public consultation.

3. For the Investment chapter, on protections for foreign investors (including significantly now into ASEAN compared to a decade ago),[5] Australia presumably goes into upgrade negotiations using its most recent significant treaties as a starting point, especially the US-style template (building on NAFTA and epitomised by the CP/TPP) that has become the most common drafting approach around the Asia-Pacific region more generally.[6] However, views around ISDS-backed protections have changed in recent years, regionally (with the EU proposing several novel features, impacting also on Asia[7]) and in multilateral forums (UNCTAD, ICSID and especially UNCITRAL). Australia needs to become more consistently pro-active (arguably working with close partners especially New Zealand) in addressing persistent concerns about ISDS-backed protections in investment agreements, and this review of AANZFTA therefore should propose:

3.1 Minimising costs and delays through promoting amicable settlement,[8] by allowing a disputing party to require the other to attempt to mediate an investment dispute, before proceeding to arbitration. (This was provided under Australia’s recently signed bilateral FTA with Indonesia, although that was seemingly proposed by Indonesia and only allows the host state to compel mediation,[9] whereas an investor should be able to compel it too.).

3.2 Maximising transparency around ISDS (including disclosure around third-party funding) by explicitly adopting the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules (as under Australia’s recently revised BIT with Uruguay), and/or including similar provisions in the upgraded AANZFTA investment chapter text (as under the CP/TPP and/or Australia’s recent bilateral FTA with Peru).[10] Greater transparency benefits almost all stakeholders, not just (especially democratically accountable) host states but also foreign investors (able therefore to better expose protectionist or other vested interests in host states, to the detriment of other groups in those host states).[11] This is also consistent with Australia’s current efforts to ratify the UN Mauritius Transparency Convention; but that only retrofits greater ISDS transparency around pre-2014 treaties even if counterparties ratify that multilateral instrument too in future.

3.3 Further enhancing legitimacy around ISDS by expressly prohibiting “double-hatting” (arbitrators acting also as counsel), as under the CPTPP Code of Conduct,[12] as well as recent EU treaties (albeit for its now-preferred “investment court” alternative to traditional ISDS). Curiously Australia has not provided such an express prohibition in any other treaty, even its recent FTA with Peru (although both states are supposed to issue Guidance for ISDS arbitrators now that it is in force, so that prohibition might still be added there).

3.4 Australia should propose the “public welfare notice” procedure added uniquely in its FTA with China. This usefully suspends ISDS claims while the home state discusses with the host state potential defences relating to public welfare interests in the host state.[13]

3.5 However, as another aspect relating to public health risks such as coronavirus, the AANZFTA upgrade should consider express provisions expediting cross-border movement of senior management related to foreign investments, even in emerging emergency situations.

4. For the Competition chapter, this should be upgraded at least to CPTPP-style standards, but it should be boosted by more expansive Consumer Protection provisions especially now that ASEAN states have made significant (albeit sometimes patchy) progress in this field over last decade as part of building the ASEAN Economic Community.[14] I understand my Business School colleague Prof Gail Pearson has completed an ACCC-funded scoping project, so urge that to be publically disclosed so further informed comment and publically discussed. I also repeat my longstanding calls for Australia to seek provisions in FTAs that require or at least allow respective regulators to exchange consumer product safety accident-related information with their counterparts abroad. This could also be extended to sharing information about consumer credit related risks.[15]

5. The AANZFTA upgrade should also propose a chapter on Environmental Protection, as this is another public concern around FTAs. In particular this should incorporate this FTA’s dispute settlement procedures into other listed environmental protection treaties. The inspiration should be the CPTPP, but drafting improvements are helpfully suggested by our A/Prof Jeanne Huang.[16]


[1] https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/in-force/aanzfta/Pages/general-review-of-the-asean-australia-new-zealand-fta.aspx

[2] Huang, Jeanne, https://erga-omnes.sydney.edu.au/2020/02/coronavirus-outbreak-and-teaching-chinese-students-online-legal-issues-that-australian-universities-should-know/

[3] Bath, Vivienne and Nottage, Luke R., The ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement and ‘ASEAN Plus’ – The Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) and the PRC-ASEAN Investment Agreement (September 26, 2013). INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT LAW: A HANDBOOK, M. Bungenberg, J. Griebel, S.Hobe & A. Reinisch, eds., Nomos Verlagsgellschaft: Germany, 2015; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2331714

[4] Bath, Vivienne and Nottage, Luke R., International Investment Agreements and Investor-State Arbitration in Asia (February 26, 2020). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 20/08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3544458 (footnotes omitted):

“The AANZFTA provides that the provisions on NT in the Investment Chapter will not come into effect until the Schedules of Reservations were finalized (Art 11.16) under a Work Program. Further negotiations on an MFN provision were also to take place under the Work Program (Art 11.16).  This has not been completed. Indeed, review of the investment chapter was paused in 2017 pending the finalisation of the RCEP, although the Economic Ministers of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand noted in late 2019 the Upgrade Negotiations to amend the AANZFTA (for the second time) as a result of a review which will include the investment chapter.”

[5] See ASEAN Investment Report 2018 ch1, via https://asean.org/asean-investment-report-2018-published/

[6] Alschner, Wolfgang and Skougarevskiy, Dmitriy, The New Gold Standard? Empirically Situating the TPP in the Investment Treaty Universe (November 20, 2015). Journal of World Investment & Trade, Vol. 17, pp. 339-373 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2823476 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2823476

[7] Kawharu, Amokura and Nottage, Luke R., Models for Investment Treaties in the Asian Region: An Underview (September 21, 2016). Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol 34, No. 3, pp. 462-528, 2017 ; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 16/87. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2845088

[8] See generally, forthcoming in JWIT: Ubilava, Ana, Amicable Settlements in Investor-State Disputes: Empirical Analysis of Patterns and Perceived Problems (March 13, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3352181

[9] Ubilava, Ana and Nottage, Luke R., Novel and Noteworthy Aspects of Australia’s Recent Investment Agreements and ISDS Policy: The CPTPP, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Mauritius Transparency Treaties (March 4, 2020). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 20/12. Available at SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3548358

[10] Ibid.

[11] Burch, Micah and Nottage, Luke R. and Williams, Brett G., Appropriate Treaty-Based Dispute Resolution for Asia-Pacific Commerce in the 21st Century (May 24, 2012). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 1013-1040; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2065636

[12] See Nottage, Luke R. and Ubilava, Ana, Costs, Outcomes and Transparency in ISDS Arbitrations: Evidence for an Investment Treaty Parliamentary Inquiry (August 6, 2018). International Arbitration Law Review, Vol. 21, Issue 4, 2018; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/46. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3227401;

and Concept Paper on Arbitrator Independence via https://www.cids.ch/academic-forum-concept-papers

[13] For more details see Nottage, Luke R., Investment Treaty Arbitration Policy in Australia, New Zealand – and Korea? (August 13, 2015). Journal of Arbitration Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 185-226, 2015; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 15/66. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2643926

[14] Nottage, Luke R. and Malbon, Justin E. and Paterson, Jeannie Marie and Beaton Wells, Caron Y., ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation and Cooperation: Backdrop and Overarching Perspectives (June 3, 2019). Luke Nottage, Justin Malbon, Jeannie Marie Paterson and Caron Beaton-Wells, “ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation and Cooperation: Achievements and Challenges”, Cambridge University Press (2019); Sydney Law School Research Paper No. #19/32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3398046

[15] Nottage, Luke R., Free Trade Agreement and Investment Treaty Innovations to Promote More Sustainable Financial Markets for Consumers (July 2, 2014). THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS AND THE NEED FOR CONSUMER REGULATION: NEW DEVELOPMENTS ON INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION OF CONSUMER, C. Lima Marques, D. P. Fernandez Arroyo, I. Ramsay, G. Pearson, eds., Orquestra Editora, Brazil, 2012; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 14/59. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2461568

[16] Huang, Jie Jeanne and Hu, Jiaxiang, Can Free Trade Agreements Enhance MARPOL 73/78 Compliance? (October 3, 2018). Tulane Maritime Law Journal, Vol. 43. 2018, pp. 59-91; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/62. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3259734

“New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region”: Symposium 17 June 2020 (2-5pm) at/with Taylor’s University, Kuala Lumpur

Supported also by the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) & Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC)

This half-day symposium brings together academic researchers and practitioners in international dispute resolution, exploring new developments regionally impacting on international commercial arbitration as well as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). These extend to initiatives around cross-border mediation, international commercial courts, and China’s Belt and Road project. The symposium builds on a research project over 2019 between the University of Sydney and Hong Kong University (focusing on Australia, HK, China, Japan and Singapore)[1], to examine more closely developments also in Malaysia and other parts of Asia.

Please register your attendance for this complimentary symposium via email to avijayalakshmi.venugopal@taylors.edu.my.

Time Session
2-2.10 pm Welcome Message Mr. Harmahinder Singh Head, Taylor’s Law School, Taylor’s University
2.15-2.40 pm Mediating Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions[2] Professor Luke Nottage Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
2.45-3.10 pm Recent Developments of Institutional Arbitration in China: Specialization, Digitalization and Internationalization[3] Associate Professor Jie Huang Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
3.15-3.40 pm Malaysia’s Involvement in International Business Dispute Resolution[4] Dr. A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal Taylor’s Law School, Taylor’s University
3.45-4 pm Closing Remarks Professor Luke Nottage & Dr. A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal
4-4.40 pm Refreshments  

Speakers’ Profiles

Dr Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM Kyoto) specialises in comparative and transnational business law (especially arbitration, investment law, contract and consumer law), with a particular interest in Japan and the Asia-Pacific. He is Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School, founding Co-Director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), and Associate Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS). He has held fellowships at other leading institutions in Japan and Australia as well as Germany, Italy, Canada and Thailand.

Luke’s 16 books include International Arbitration in Australia (2010, eds), Foreign Investment and Dispute Resolution in Asia (2011, eds), International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (2018, eds), Contract Law in Japan (2019) and ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation and Cooperation (2019, both co-authored).

He has or had executive roles in the Australia-Japan Society (NSW), the Law Council of Australia’s International Law Section, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, and the Asia-Pacific Forum for International Arbitration. Luke is also a Rules committee member of ACICA and listed on the Panel of Arbitrators for the AIAC (formerly KLRCA), BAC, JCAA, KCAB, NZIAC, SCIA and TAI. Luke has consulted for law firms world-wide, the EC, the OECD, the UNDP, ASEAN and the Japanese government; and has contributed to arbitration and consumer law reform and investment treaty-making in Australia. He qualified as a lawyer in New Zealand in 1994 and in New South Wales in 2001.

Dr Jie (Jeanne) Huang, SJD (law) Duke University School of Law in the US; Master of International Law and LLB, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics in China. Dr. Jeanne Huang is an associate professor at the University of Sydney Law School in Australia. She is widely known for her research on legal issues in digital trade and e-commerce, international investment and Chinese law. She has published four books and authored many articles in leading peer-reviewed law journals, such as Journal of International Economic Law and Journal of Private International Law. Twelve of her articles are indexed by SSCI. She has received funding from University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, China National Social Science Fund general project (equivalent to Australian ARC), China Ministry of Education, the China Law Society, Shanghai Philosophy and Social Science Fund, and Shanghai Government Development and Research Centre Fund on research topics related to international trade and investment regulations.

Dr. A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal (LLB, MEd(Psy), LLM, PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in Taylor’s Law School, teaching various modules in the LLB and LLM degrees, including Alternative Dispute Resolution, Law of the World Trade Organization and International Sale of Goods. She has supervised a number of LLM theses on international arbitration. She is the author of 3 books and various articles on law. She has also presented conference papers on and been a trainer in education. She qualified as an advocate and solicitor in Malaysia.


[1] https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/2019/02/

[2] Claxton, James M. and Nottage, Luke R. and Williams, Brett G., Mediating Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions (December 3, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/73. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3497299.

[3] Jie (Jeanne) Huang (2019), Recent Developments of Institutional Arbitration in China: Specialization, Digitalization and Internationalization, in Julien Chaisse & Jiaxiang Hu (Eds), International Economic Law and the Challenges of the Free Zones, (pp. 251-275), Wolters Kluwer.

[4] Venugopal, A. V., Malaysia’s Involvement in International Business Dispute Resolution, in Ali, S., Jetin, B.; Nottage, L.; and Teramura, N., New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, Wolters Kluwer.

“New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution” (10): New Book with Kluwer

[For updates to chapter titles & authors, plus Abstracts and a link to a free related Webinar on 4 August 2020 5-6pm (Sydney time), please click here.]

Culminating a HKU/USydney joint research project and two conferences over 2019, Kluwer has agreed to publish a monograph under this title co-edited by myself, HKU Prof Shahla Ali, UBrunei A/Prof Bruno Jetin, and Dr Nobumichi Teramura. Manuscripts for the 15 chapters will be submitted by July 2020 so the book is published by early 2021, as part of Kluwer’s widely-read “International Arbitration” series supervised by QMUL Profs Julian Lew and Stavros Brekoulakis. Below is more information on the authors, editors, contributions, and expected readership/features of our new book

Book Contents:

  1. Introduction: New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific Trade, Investment and International Business Dispute Resolution – Jetin & Nottage
  2. ICA and International Commercial Courts: Singapore, Australia and Beyond – Warren & Croft (based on “An International Commercial Court for Australia: An Idea Worth Taking to Market”) [i]
  3. New Frontiers for ICA in Australia: Beyond the ‘(Un)Lucky Country’ – Teramura et al (building on “Country Report on Australia for: International Commercial Arbitration – An Asia-Pacific Perspective”[ii] and “International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: Judicial Control over Arbitral Awards”[iii])[iv]
  4. Transparency versus Confidentiality in ICA and ISDS: Australia and Japan in Regional Context – Nottage (based on “Confidentiality versus Transparency in International Arbitration: Asia-Pacific Tensions and Expectations”[v])[vi]
  5. Novel and Noteworthy Aspects of Australia’s Recent Investment Agreements and ISDS: The CPTPP and Agreements with Hong Kong and Indonesia – Nottage & Ubilava (based on “Costs, Outcomes and Transparency in ISDS Arbitrations: Evidence for an Investment Treaty Parliamentary Inquiry”[vii] and Nottage’s parliamentary submissions regarding new treaties with HK and Indonesia[viii])[ix]
  6. Hong Kong Developments in ICA and ISDS in the Context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative – Ali (based on “ICA and ISDS Developments in Hong Kong in the Context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative”[x])[xi]
  7. Harmonising the Public Policy Exception for ICA along the Belt and Road – Gu (based on “China’s Belt and Road Development and a New International Commercial Arbitration Initiative in Asia”[xii])[xiii]
  8. PRC Developments in Private International Law, ICA and ISDS – Bath[xiv]
  9. Malaysia’s Involvement in International Business Dispute Resolution – Venugopal[xv]
  10. Japan’s New Ambitions as a Regional Dispute Resolution Hub: Better Late than Never? – Claxton, Nottage and Teramura (based on “Developing Japan as a Regional Hub for International Dispute Resolution: Dream Come True or Daydream?”[xvi])[xvii]
  11. Mediating Complex Multi-level Trade and Investment Disputes Between Japan and Korea – Claxton, Nottage and Williams (based on “Resolving Disputes Amidst Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions”[xviii])[xix]
  12. Indian Investment Treaty and Dispute Resolution Practice: Assessing Recent Developments – Singh[xx]
  13. Extending Dispute Resolution Provisions in Free Trade Agreements to Better Enforce Other Treaties: The CPTPP and MARPOL 73/78 – Hu and Huang (based on “Can Free Trade Agreements Enhance MARPOL 73/78 Compliance?”[xxi])[xxii]
  14. Promoting International Mediation through the Singapore Convention – Strong (based on “The Role of Empirical Research and Dispute System Design in Proposing and Developing International Treaties: A Case Study of the Singapore Convention on Mediation”[xxiii])[xxiv]
  15. Conclusions: Expanding Asia-Pacific Frontiers – Reyes, Teramura & Ali

Editors/bios:

  • Dr Shahla Ali is Professor and Associate Dean (International) and Deputy Director of the LLM in Arbitration and Dispute Resolution at the Faculty of Law of the University of Hong Kong. Her research and practice center on questions of governance, development and the resolution of cross-border disputes in the Asia Pacific region. Shahla is the author of Court Mediation Reform (Elgar, 2018), Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief (CUP, 2016); Consumer Financial Dispute Resolution in a Comparative Context (CUP, 2013); and Resolving Disputes in the Asia Pacific Region (Routledge, 2010) and writes for law journals in the area of comparative ADR. She has consulted with USAID, IFC/World Bank and the United Nations on issues pertaining to access to justice, peace process negotiation training and land use conflict resolution. She serves as a bilingual arbitrator (English/Chinese) with CIETAC, HKIAC (ADNDRC), SIAC and has served on the IBA Drafting Committee for Investor-State Mediation Rules, the DOJ Mediation Regulatory Committee, the UN Mediation Roster and the FDRC Appointments Committee. Prior to HKU, she worked as an international trade attorney with Baker & McKenzie in its SF office. She received her JD and PhD from UC Berkeley in Jurisprudence and Social Policy and BA from Stanford University. (Further details can be found here.)
  • Dr Bruno Jetin is Associate Professor and Director of the Institute of Asian Studies, University of Brunei Darussalam (UBD). His current work focuses on the ASEAN Economic Community, the One Belt One Road initiative, Chinese investments in Southeast Asia, and the impact of income distribution on growth in Asia. He is also an expert in the automobile industry. Before joining UBD, he was a researcher at the Institute for Research on Contemporary Southeast Asia (IRASEC, CNRS-MAEE, Bangkok) and Associate Professor at the University of Paris 13 Sorbonne Paris Cité, where he obtained his PhD in economics and was Deputy Director of the Research Center in Economics. He was also involved in promoting taxes on financial transactions as alternative sources for financing development as well as innovative regulation of global finance. Bruno’s recent publications include Jetin and Mikic (eds) ASEAN Economic Community: A model for Asia-wide Integration? (Palgrave McMillan, 2016); Jetin (ed) Global Automobile Demand (2 Vols, Palgrave McMillan); Jetin and Chaisse “International Investment Policy for Small States: The Case of Brunei” in Chaisse and Nottage (eds) International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018); “One Belt-One Road Initiative and ASEAN Connectivity” in Deepak (ed) China’s Global Rebalancing and the New Silk Road (Springer, 2018). (Further details can be found here.)
  • Dr Luke Nottage specialises in comparative and transnational business law, especially international arbitration and investment law, with a particular interest in Asia. He is Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School, founding Co-Director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), and Associate Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS). His books include International Arbitration in Australia (Federation Press, 2010, eds), Foreign Investment and Dispute Resolution in Asia (Routledge, 2011, eds), International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018, eds), Contract Law in Japan (Kluwer, 2019, with Hiroo Sono et al) and 12 other volumes. Luke has or had executive roles in the Australia-Japan Society (NSW), the Law Council of Australia’s International Law Section, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, and the Asia-Pacific Forum for International Arbitration. Luke is also a Rules committee member of ACICA and listed on the Panel of Arbitrators for the AIAC (formerly KLRCA), BAC, JCAA, KCAB, NZIAC, SCIA and TAI. Luke serves on Working Group 6 (examining arbitrator neutrality) for the Academic Forum on ISDS. He has consulted for law firms world-wide, the EC, the OECD, the UNDP, ASEAN and the Japanese government; and has made numerous public Submissions to the Australian government on investment treaties, arbitration and consumer law reform. He qualified as a lawyer in New Zealand in 1994 and in New South Wales in 2001. (Full CV downloadable here.)
  • Dr Nobumichi Teramura is Lecturer at the University of Adelaide Law School and Associate at the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney, specialising in international commercial law, especially private international law, arbitration, contract law, with a particular interest in Asia and Australasia. He is the author of Ex Aequo et Bono as a Response to the Over-judicialisation of International Commercial Arbitration (Kluwer, 2020 [forthcoming]). He has published and presented his research extensively in various journals and at academic conferences in different jurisdictions in both English and Japanese. He has also received scholarships and fellowships in highly competitive rounds from leading research institutions or foundations and from the Japanese Government. He was invited to De La Salle University in the Philippines (one of its top law schools) three times over 2016-2019 to teach arbitration and international commercial law, first as a visiting lecturer and later as a distinguished visiting professor.

Other book contributors:

  • Professor Vivienne Bath (Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney)
  • Professor James Claxton (Kobe University Law School, Japan)
  • The Hon Dr Clyde Croft AM SC (former Judge of the Victorian Supreme Court)
  • Professor Hu Jiaxiang (KoGuan Law School, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China)
  • A/Professor Jeanne Huang (University of Sydney Law School)
  • James Morrison (Principal of Morrison Law, Sydney; former ACICA Acting Secretary-General)
  • Justice Anselmo Reyes (Singapore International Commercial Court)
  • Prof Jaivir Singh (Centre for the Study of Law and Governance, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India)
  • A/Professor Stacie Strong (University of Sydney Law School, from January 2020)
  • A/Professor Gu Weixia (University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law)
  • Mrs Ana Ubilava (Research Assistant and PhD candidate at the University of Sydney Law School)
  • Professor Marilyn Warren AC QC (former Chief Justice of the Victorian Supreme Court)
  • Dr A Vijayalakshmi Venugopal (Senior Lecturer, Taylor’s University Law School, Malaysia)
  • Dr Brett Williams (Principal of Williams Trade Law, Sydney)

Book Aims, Necessity, Features/Benefits

This book project examines the challenges and opportunities for developing international commercial arbitration (ICA) and arbitration through investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

Analysing ICA, the pre-eminent mechanism for resolving cross-border disputes among firms, this book builds on Anselmo Reyes & Weixia Gu (eds), The Developing World of Arbitration: A Comparative Study of Arbitration Reform in the Asia-Pacific (Hart, 2018), but examines more recent challenges for ICA. These include the proliferation of international commercial courts (including in Singapore, but also elsewhere and potentially in Australia) as well as the UN’s 2019 Singapore Convention on enforcement of mediated settlement agreements (Singapore Convention on Mediation). There is also competition now among regional centres to become attractive venues for international business dispute resolution, including resolving “Belt and Road” disputes. The present book focuses mainly on Hong Kong and Singapore (competing jurisdictions in the top “Stage 4” for ICA venues, as identified by Reyes & Gu), Australia and Malaysia (“Stage 3” venues), China and Japan (arguably transitioning from “Stage 2” to “Stage 3”), and India (“Stage 2”) but it in a wider Asia-Pacific context.

In addition, this book project compares approaches in these jurisdictions to ISDS, but we also touch on treaties concluded by Indonesia and Korea as other significant economies in the region. The ISDS procedure allows a foreign investor to bring arbitration claims directly against host states if they violate substantive commitments, such as not discriminating in favour of local investors or expropriation without adequate compensation, usually based on a treaty with the home state of the foreign investor. ISDS has become increasingly controversial as claims have been brought against developed countries, not just developing countries where this enforcement mechanism brings the greatest comfort for foreign firms considering investments. Going beyond Julien Chaisse and Luke Nottage (eds) International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018) [with an introduction partly here], this book project charts evolving treaty practices and high-profile ISDS cases, assesses whether these do or might impact on public attitudes even towards ICA or other forms of arbitration, and explores alternatives or complements to ISDS arbitration.

Why is there a need for it? / Why is now a good time to produce it?

ICA is already “big business” for leading regional venues such as Singapore and Hong Kong. But the recent social unrest in Hong Kong highlights the potential for unexpected developments, and other regional jurisdictions are anyway seeking to emulate their success. These competing venues include mainland China (where arbitrators and courts have growing capacity in cross-border matters), Australia (which may become a venue for some Belt and Road disputes) and Japan (belatedly establishing new international arbitration and mediation facilities). Yet businesses are increasingly concerned about the costs and delays in ICA. They are considering emerging alternatives such as international commercial courts or cross-border mediation, underpinned by new multilateral treaties. Established and emerging jurisdictions for international commercial arbitration therefore need to consider how to position themselves relative to these new frontiers.

ISDS arbitration is also a large and growing area of legal practice, with more engagement recently by Asian parties, yet it too faces challenges. The Philip Morris Asia claim brought under an old Hong Kong investment treaty against Australia to challenge its plain packaging legislation, although unsuccessful, led to Australia refusing over 2011-13 to agree to ISDS provisions in new treaties. Subsequent governments have agreed to ISDS in some treaties, and did so in recently signed Australia – Hong Kong investment agreement (close to ratification), but ISDS remains highly politicised in Australia. China has also been subjected to ISDS claims recently, and so may be reassessing its gradual shift since the late 1990s towards agreeing to wider ISDS-backed protections in its overseas treaties, despite them assisting Chinese outbound investors. Singapore and other Asia-Pacific states have already agreed to the alternative “permanent investment court” proposed by the European Union in their recent treaties, substituting a two-tier court staffed by judges pre-selected only by the states themselves, rather than ad hoc arbitral tribunals. Another potential alternative to ISDS arbitration is investor-state mediation, which could become a mandatory dispute resolution step in future investment treaties (as in the recently-signed Indonesia-Australia FTA).

The significance of investigating ISDS developments, in the context of possible alternatives and broader trends in ICA, is reinforced by UN deliberations into possible ISDS reforms, underway since late 2017. This book project will integrate written and oral statements made in and around UNCITRAL by some of the delegates from the key Asia-Pacific states subject to analysis.

Five features/characteristics: the book

  • analyses the challenges and opportunities for developing ICA and ISDS in the Asia-Pacific region with the latest updates
  • assesses recent challenges for ICA: the proliferation of international commercial courts and the rise of international mediation as represented by the Singapore Convention on Mediation
  • examines the increasingly vigorous competition among regional centres to become attractive venues for international business dispute resolution, focusing on: Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, China and Japan
  • compares recent approaches in these jurisdictions to ISDS
  • is written by leading experts for ICA and ISDS in the Asia-Pacific region

Three benefits: the book help the reader to

  • make an informed decision on which dispute resolution method – ICA, international mediation or international litigation – is the most suitable for the international business dispute s/he or clients may be involved in
  • understand recent trends in ADR practice related to business in the Asia-Pacific region, and new resources for dealing with the increasing competition among countries become the next regional dispute resolution hub
  • refresh knowledge on ISDS practice and debates in significant Asia-Pacific economies in the Asia-Pacific region, including features of their recently concluded treaties

Chapter Abstracts (and related works):

[i] Abstract: International commercial courts are proliferating, including in Asia, offering a new alternative to arbitration as the hitherto dominant mechanism for resolving cross-border disputes. When the significant trade and investment treaties being concluded by Australia are considered with respect to the Asia-Pacific, the opportunities to create an Australian international court are almost boundless. Its establishment cannot be left to the Courts themselves or for the Australian legal profession to develop. The experiences of Singapore, China Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and indeed, London demonstrate that it is vital for there to be government interest and support for such a proposal. Adding an Australian international commercial court to the mix also occurs within a wider international context. A stronger contribution can be made to the rule of law by courts working together than if they are working separately. The early 21st Century is being defined by something of a return to internationalisation and globalisation, although the form and forms that will take remain to be seen. It is for judges to help shape those forms and contribute towards global stability, harmonisation and due recognition of the law in the context of commercial enterprise. These common purposes, as well as quality of justice and the manner of its administration provided at commercial courts and arbitral tribunals, international and domestic, should be promoted and indeed marketed.

[ii] Morrison, James and Nottage, Luke R., Country Report on Australia for: International Commercial Arbitration – An Asia-Pacific Perspective (October 23, 2014). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 14/95. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2514124

[iii] Teramura, Nobumichi and Nottage, Luke R. and Morrison, James, International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: Judicial Control over Arbitral Awards (April 10, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/24. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3379494

[iv] Abstract: Some ‘bad luck’ has haunted the arbitration industry in Australia. Geographical remoteness has made the country an unfavourable venue for increasing ICA caseloads compared with its competitors in the Asia-Pacific region. Fortunately, such ‘bad luck’ has not necessarily brought about excessively negative impacts. It has helped the country generate world-class Australian arbitration experts, who are contributors and responsive to developments outside the country, which has indirectly bolstered the Australian ICA industry. Such experts have assist Australia in gradually improving the local legal environment for ICA, following international standards, especially over the last 10-15 years. However, their increasingly concerted efforts and other stakeholders have not yet turned Australia into a popular arbitration hub. The country has not overcome the ‘bad luck’ yet – people still hesitate to seat ICA in the country. Analysing the status quo for ICA in Australia, this chapter discusses recent trends and the possible next steps for its service providers to find new frontiers to develop ICA locally and regionally, without depending on chance or luck.

[v] Nottage, Luke R., Confidentiality versus Transparency in International Arbitration: Asia-Pacific Tensions and Expectations (August 29, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. #19/52, August 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3444692

[vi] Abstract: Confidentiality is still widely seen as significant advantage of international commercial arbitration (ICA) over cross-border litigation, especially perhaps in Asia. This can be seen in rules of most arbitral institutions. Automatic (opt-out) confidentiality is also now found in many national laws, including statutory add-ons to the UNCITRAL Model Law and/or through case law for example in New Zealand, then Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, and eventually Australia. Yet there remain variations in the timing of these developments as well as the scope and procedures associated with exceptions to confidentiality. There is also no confidentiality provided in Japan’s later adoption of the Model Law, although parties mostly choose the JCAA so opt-in to its Rules, which have somewhat expanded confidentiality obligations since 2014.

Another recent complication is growing public concern over arbitration procedures through (especially treaty-based) investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), especially in Australia since an ultimately unsuccessful treaty claim by Philip Morris over tobacco plain packaging legislation (2011-15). Statutory amendments in 2018 reverse automatic confidentiality for Australia-seated ISDS arbitrations where the 2014 UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration. Concerns over ISDS may impede Australia enacting provisions for confidentiality of arbitration-related court proceedings, which could not be revised recently in New Zealand against the backdrop of its new government’s anti-ISDS stance.

Growing transparency around ISDS arbitration is welcome given greater public interests involved in such cases, but transparency should not be simply transposed into commercial dispute resolution through ICA as the fields are overlapping but distinct. Confidentiality in ICA has the disadvantage of exacerbating information asymmetry, making it harder for clients and advisors to assess whether particular arbitrators and lawyers provide value for money. But confidentiality allows arbitrators in particular to be more robust in proceedings and drafting rulings, thus countering the rise in ICA delays and especially costs. More transparency around ISDS, as well as initiatives like “Arbitrator Intelligence” and experiments in reforming Arbitration Rules (eg recently by the ICC), can help reduce information asymmetry for users anyway, while retaining various advantages of confidentiality particularly in ICA.

This chapter elaborates these tensions between confidentiality and transparency in ICA and ISDS, focusing on Australia and Japan in regional context. Both countries still get few ICA cases but are trying to attract more, taking somewhat different approaches to confidentiality in that field, while negotiating investment treaties that increasingly provide transparency around ISDS arbitration.

[vii] Nottage, Luke R. and Ubilava, Ana, Costs, Outcomes and Transparency in ISDS Arbitrations: Evidence for an Investment Treaty Parliamentary Inquiry (August 6, 2018). International Arbitration Law Review, Vol. 21, Issue 4, 2018; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/46. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3227401

[viii] https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/2019/10/new-frontiers-in-international-arbitration-for-the-asia-pacific-region-8-confidentiality-vs-transparency-in-icarb-and-isds/

[ix] Abstract: Investment treaties, and especially ISDS provisions, became a political hot potato from around 2011 when Philip Morris brought the first-ever ISDS claim against Australia under an old bilateral investment treaty (BIT) with Hong Kong. A Labor-Greens Government declared that it would no longer agree to ISDS provisions in future treaties, but when a centre-right Coalition Government regained power from 2013 it reverted to concluding treaties containing ISDS clauses on a case-by-case assessment. Australia therefore agreed to ISDS in FTAs with Korea and China, but not bilaterally with Japan. However ISDS-backed provisions apply between Australia and Japan since the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) can into force between them (and five other Asia-Pacific nations so far) from January 2019. Yet the Australian parliament engaged in robust debate about ratification of the CPTPP, with Labor Opposition (and Greens) parliamentarians continuing to voice concerns over ISDS provisions, despite the Philip Morris claim against Australia’s tobacco plain packaging having been rejected on jurisdictional grounds in 2015.

This chapter first elaborates on evidence presented to the Australian parliament favouring ratification of the CPTPP, including empirical findings about concerns raised such as the typical amounts awarded, arbitration costs, time-frames and transparency involved in ISDS proceedings. The chapter next compares the parliamentary committee report in 2018 that agreed that ratification should proceed, with a report in 2019 recommending Australia’s ratification of investment agreements (also including ISDS) with Hong Kong and Indonesia – but also early termination of an old Australia-Indonesia BIT. It shows how these two new agreements generally retain (originally US-style) CPTPP drafting, but add some innovative features (notably a mandatory mediation step that the host state can trigger before arbitration, in the Indonesia-Australia treaty), and show some variance between themselves (including more transparency for ISDS proceedings, in the Hong Kong – Australia treaty). The Labor Opposition parliamentarians have also toned down their declared opposition to ISDS, perhaps due to suffering an unexpected election loss in May 2019. Finally, chapter looks at the parliamentary inquiry into Australia ratifying the Mauritius (“UN ISDS”) Convention, retrofitting extensive transparency provisions on earlier treaties between Australia and other states that might also accede to that framework Convention. We conclude from these new developments that Australia is now better placed to play a more active role in guiding the future path of international investment treaty-making especially in the Asia-Pacific region.

[x] Ali, Shahla F., ICA and ISDS Developments in Hong Kong in the Context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (September 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3453061

[xi] Abstract: This chapter examines the impact of both the Belt and Road Initiative and the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Arbitration (the Model Law) on both international commercial and investor state arbitration practice in Hong Kong. Given the significance of Hong Kong as a gateway to OBOR project financing and logistics, understanding current dispute resolution policy is critical for gaining insights into China’s approach to the resolution of OBOR disputes. Measures taken to modernize the practice of arbitration including training programmes and legislative reforms are examined with a view to gaining insights into challenges and future developments.

[xii] Gu, Weixia, China’s Belt and Road Development and a New International Commercial Arbitration Initiative in Asia (2018). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Vol. 51, No. 5, 2018; University of Hong Kong Faculty of Law Research Paper No. 2019/012. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3346924

[xiii] Abstract: The policy centerpiece of President Xi Jinping’s foreign strategy, China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), ambitiously aspires towards expanding regional markets and facilitating regional cooperation. In context of a rising volume of cross-border transactions generated by the BRI, a robust legal framework on dispute resolution is required to forge investor confidence and enable BRI’s integral goal of economic integration. In light of the substantial levels of harmonization among arbitration laws, arbitration is argued to constitute a primary vehicle of international commercial dispute resolution in an economically integrated Asia under the BRI. It is against this backdrop that the chapter argues that the BRI provides a unique opportunity to contemplate the possibility of regional harmonization, as within the Asian economies along the BRI, of the public policy exception to arbitral enforcement. Such an arbitration initiative in Asia, in which China is anticipated to take a proactive role, holds a wealth of potential to project renewed momentum on China as an engine of not only economic power, but also soft power transformation in pioneering international legal norms.

[xiv] Abstract: This chapter will outline the latest developments in the People’s Republic of China as it promotes itself as a regional hub for international dispute resolution, especially in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, including the establishing of an International Commercial Court.

[xv] Abstract: This chapter reviews Malaysia’s involvement in international dispute resolution. This includes actual involvement in cases in the WTO and investor-state dispute settlement, and as a venue for international dispute resolution especially through the recently rebranded Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC). This chapter also extends to Malaysia’s potential involvement in dispute resolution of international business disputes. This part includes the challenges of enforcing foreign judgments in Malaysia and enforcing domestic judgments abroad, as well as questions around international dispute resolution clauses in Malaysia’s trade agreements. This chapter therefore highlights how Malaysia has been involved in international dispute resolution and the continuing significance of this for Malaysia, against the backdrop of significant domestic political changes in recent years.

[xvi] Claxton, James M. and Nottage, Luke R. and Teramura, Nobumichi, Developing Japan as a Regional Hub for International Dispute Resolution: Dream Come True or Daydream? (December 11, 2018). Journal of Japanese Law, Issue 47, 2019 (Forthcoming); Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3299097

[xvii] Abstract: The Japanese government, supported by various stakeholders, has recently been attempting to develop Japan as another regional hub for international business dispute resolution services. Tracking this development is important for both theoretical and practical reasons. How it unfolds should reveal which of various theories for explaining Japanese law-related behaviour have more traction nowadays. Assessing the new initiatives is also important for legal practitioners and others interested in the practical question of where to arbitrate or mediate cross-border business disputes. This chapter therefore reports on current attempts to promote existing and new international arbitration centres in Japan as well as the recent establishment of the Japan International Mediation – Kyoto, in the context of intensifying competition from other regional venues for dispute resolution services.

[xviii] Claxton, James M. and Nottage, Luke R. and Williams, Brett G., Mediating Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions (December 3, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/73. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3497299 (shorter version forthcoming in Journal of World Trade, August 2021)

[xix] Abstract: This chapter first describes the trade tensions between Korea and Japan that escalated from mid-2019. It assesses Korea’s prospects in a formal claim now brought before the World Trade Organization, noting difficulties with substantive law, but especially procedure given the general breakdown in the WTO’s usual two-tier inter-state dispute resolution process. The chapter then outlines the possibility of Japan bringing claims under a 1965 Treaty that purported to settle claims resulting from Japan’s colonisation of Korea, or under two investment treaties, regarding Korean courts recently ordering Japanese companies to pay compensation to war-time Korean labourers. Yet such claims also face procedural and/or substantive law difficulties. The chapter also elaborates the possibility of affected Japanese companies instead or in parallel bringing investor-state dispute settlement claims against Korea, similarly alleging denial of justice in Korean court proceedings, under the two treaties. We conclude that these extra complications bolster the attraction of a formal mediation to bring both countries and the affected companies together in order to achieve an overall negotiated settlement.

[xx] Abstract: This chapter provides a perspective on investment treaty practice from India, which lies at the periphery of what is traditionally associated with the Asia Pacific region. While seemingly on the periphery of this collection of countries, India has signed investment and trade treaties with many of them. It has also recently become involved in disputes under them, and so has started to terminate many bilateral investment treaties. Indians now seeks to renegotiate fresh treaties using a template provided by a new model treaty that is oriented towards privileging state rights. The chapter will look at the narrative led to this point, touching on key cases as well as drawing on some path-breaking (econometric) empirical evidence of the impact of India’s investment treaties on foreign investment. This discussion is aimed to lead to assessing the implications of this emerging configuration for the future of investment law and practice in the wider region.

[xxi] Huang, Jie Jeanne and Hu, Jiaxiang, Can Free Trade Agreements Enhance MARPOL 73/78 Compliance? (October 3, 2018). Tulane Maritime Law Journal, Vol. 43. 2018, pp. 59-91; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/62. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3259734

[xxii] Abstract: Whether Free Trade Agreements can effectively encourage states to comply with the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships and its Protocols. This question has not been well researched, although the latter has been incorporated into the former since the 2006 US-Peru FTA and most recently in the 2018 Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This chapter explores the CPTPP’s achievements and deficiencies to enhance marine environment protection from four aspects: flags of convenience, the vague role of coastal states, affecting trade or investment, and dispute resolution. It adds proposals to address the deficiencies. It concludes by assessing the broader potential for using FTA dispute resolution processes to assist in ensuring compliance with inter-linked treaties, especially for the Asia-Pacific region.

[xxiii] Strong, S.I., The Role of Empirical Research and Dispute System Design in Proposing and Developing International Treaties: A Case Study of the Singapore Convention on Mediation (February 11, 2019). 20 Cardozo Journal of Conflict Resolution __ (anticipated 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3332503

[xxiv] Abstract: This chapter seeks to provide insights into the “black box” of early treaty-making processes by undertaking a case study of the development of the United Nations Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation (the Singapore Convention on Mediation). The discussion focuses on several issues that have seldom been discussed in the legal literature, including the way in which a proposal for an international treaty makes its way to the relevant decision-makers and how those decision-makers determine which of the various alternatives to pursue. In so doing, the article focuses particularly on the role that dispute system design (DSD) and empirical research played in the early development of the Singapore Convention on Mediation. The analysis also considers how interested individuals can assist the treaty-proposing process, particularly if they are not NGO members. The chapter concludes with implications for international dispute resolution policy development and treaty-making, including for the Asia-Pacific region.

New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region (9): Arbitration and Protest in Hong Kong

Guest post written by: A/Prof Jie (Jeanne) Huang and Winston Ma (Sydney Law School)

Following the promulgation of the judicial interpretation by the Supreme People’s Court (“SPC”) on 26 September 2019, the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“Arrangement”) signed by Mainland China and Hong Kong on 2 April 2019 came into effect in Mainland China from 1 October 2019. This Arrangement provides mutual recognition and enforcement of interim measures between Hong Kong and Mainland China. It has generated broad coverage.[1] This post tries to add to the discussion by providing a note on the first case decided under the Arrangement on 8 October 2019, and more broadly, some reflections on the continuing protests in Hong Kong and arbitration under “One Country, Two Systems’.

Mutual recognition and enforcement of interim measures between Hong Kong and Mainland China

Hong Kong Arbitration Ordinance has long been allowing parties to arbitral proceedings in any place to apply to the courts of Hong Kong for interim measures. Interim measures include injunction and other measures for the purpose of maintaining or restoring the status quo pending determination of the dispute; taking action that would prevent, or refraining from taking action that is likely to cause, current or imminent harm or prejudice to the arbitral proceedings; preserving assets; or preserving evidence that may be relevant and material to the resolution of the dispute. However, in contrast to the liberal Hong Kong counterpart, people’s courts in Mainland China are conservative. Chinese law limits interim measures to property preservation, evidence preservation and conduct preservation. More important, Mainland courts generally only enforce interim measures in support of arbitration administered by domestic or foreign-related arbitration institutions of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). This is because Article 272 of Chinese Civil Procedure Law provides that where a party applies for a preservation measure, the foreign-related arbitral institution of PRC shall submit the party’s application to the intermediate people’s court at the place of domicile of the respondent or at the place where the respondent’s property is located. Article 28 of Chinese Arbitration Law states that if one of the parties applies for property preservation, the arbitration commission shall submit to a people’s court the application of the party in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Civil Procedure Law. Article 10 of Chinese Arbitration Law restricts arbitration institutions to those registered with the judicial administrative department of the relevant province, autonomous region or municipalities directly under the Central Government.[2]

There are few exceptions to the Mainland conservative approach. First, since 2017, ad hoc arbitration has been permitted in China’s pilot free trade zones.[3] Therefore, Mainland courts are likely to issue interim measures in support of such ad hoc arbitration. Second, a party to a maritime arbitration seated outside of Mainland China can apply for property preservation to the Chinese maritime court of the place where the property is located.[4] However, the property to be preserved was limited to vessels, cargos carried by a vessel, and fuel and supplies of a vessel.[5]

The third exception is created by the recent Arrangement. Arbitral proceedings commenced both before and after 1 October 2019 are potentially caught by the Arrangement, under which property, evidence and conduct preservation orders could be granted by the courts in Mainland China to assist the Hong Kong arbitration.

The scope of the Arrangement confines to arbitral proceedings seated in Hong Kong and administered by institutions or permanent offices meeting the criteria under Article 2 of the Arrangement. Six qualified institutions have been listed on 26 September 2019, being Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (“HKIAC”), ICC Hong Kong, CIETAC Hong Kong, Hong Kong Maritime Arbitration Group, eBRAM International Online Dispute Resolution Centre and South China International Arbitration Centre (Hong Kong). Future applications will also be considered and the list may be subject to alteration.

Articles 3-5 of the Arrangement set out the procedural requirements for applying to the courts in Mainland China for interim measures. Since time is of essence, application can be made by a party to the arbitration directly to the relevant Mainland Chinese court before an arbitration is accepted by an arbitration institution.[6] If the arbitration has been accepted, the application should be submitted by the arbitration institution or representative office.[7]

Article 8 of the Arrangement further reflects the importance of timeliness by demanding the requested court to make a decision after examining the application “expeditiously”. Nevertheless, the Arrangement is silent on the specific time limit applicable to the court’s examination process. Pursuant to Article 93 of the Chinese Civil Procedure Law, the court is to make an order within 48 hours after receiving an application for property preservation prior to the commencement of arbitration; Furthermore, Article 4 of the Provisions of the SPC on Several Issues concerning the Handling of Property Preservation Cases by the People’s Courts demands the court to make an order within 5 days after the security is provided, and within 48 hours in cases of emergency.

The first case decided under the Arrangement demonstrates how “expeditiously” a people’s court can make a decision. In the morning of 8 October 2019, the Shanghai Maritime Court received a property preservation application submitted by HKIAC. In this case, the arbitration applicant is a maritime company located in Hong Kong and the respondent is a company in Shanghai. They concluded a voyage charter party which stated that the applicant should provide a vessel to transport coal owned by the respondent from Indonesia to Shanghai. However, the respondent rescinded the charter party and the applicant claimed damages. Based on the charter party, they started an ad hoc arbitration and ultimately settled the case. According to the settlement agreement, the respondent should pay the applicant USD 180,000. However, the respondent did not make the payment as promised. Consequently, the respondent brought an arbitration at the HKIAC according to the arbitration clause in the settlement agreement. Invoking the Arrangement, through the HKIAC, the applicant applied to the Shanghai Maritime People’s Court to seize and freeze the respondent’s bank account and other assets. The Shanghai Court formed a collegial bench and issued the property preservation measure on the same date according to the Arrangement and Chinese Civil Procedure Law.

Protests in Hong Kong

As the first and so far the only jurisdiction with the special Arrangement through which parties to arbitration can directly apply to Mainland Chinese courts for interim measures, Hong Kong has been conferred an irreplaceable advantage while jockeying to be the most preferred arbitration seat for cases related to Chinese parties. Arbitration that is ad hoc or seated outside Hong Kong cannot enjoy the benefits of the Arrangement. Parties to an arbitration seated in Hong Kong are encouraged to select one of the listed institutions to take advantage of the Arrangement. Meanwhile, the Arrangement also attracts prominent international arbitration institutions to establish permanent offices in Hong Kong.

One may argue that the Arrangement is the necessary consequence of the “One Country, Two Systems” principle and the increasingly close judicial assistance between Mainland China and Hong Kong. Especially in the context of China’s national strategy to develop the Greater Bay Area, the notion of “one country, two systems, three jurisdictions” makes Hong Kong the only common-law jurisdiction to deal with China-related disputes.[8]

However, to what extent may the recent protests negatively impact on the arbitration industry in Hong Kong? Notably, London and Paris have also experienced legal uncertainly (Brexit in the UK) and protests (Yellow vests movement in France) in recent years. Nevertheless, the Hong Kong situation is more severe than its western counterparts in two aspects. First, currently, the protestors have impacted on the traffic inside Hong Kong. Last month, they even blocked the Hong Kong airport. It is not surprising that parties may want to move the hearings outside of Hong Kong just for the convenience of traffic, if the arbitration is still seated in Hong Kong. Second, the continuation of protests and the uncertainty of the Chinese government’s counter-measures may threaten parties’ confidence in choosing Hong Kong as the seat for arbitration. The Arrangement brings an irreplaceable advantage to Hong Kong to arbitrate cases related with Chinese parties. However, this significance should not be over-assessed. This is because by choosing a broad discovery and evidence rule, parties and tribunals have various means to deal with the situation where a party wants to hide a key evidence. Arbitration awards can be recognized and enforced in all jurisdictions ratified the New York Convention. Therefore, the value of the Arrangement is mainly for cases where the losing party only has assets in Mainland China for enforcement.

The flourish of arbitration in Hong Kong is closely related to Mainland China. However, Hong Kong, if losing its social stability due to the protests, will lose its arbitration business gradually. In the Chinese Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji by Han dynasty official Sima Qian), there is a famous idiom called “cheng ye xiao he bai ye xiao he”.[9] It means the key to one’s success is also one’s undoing. It is the hope that Mainland China and Hong Kong can find a solution quickly so that the arbitration industry in Hong Kong can continue to be prosperous. This is more important than the implementation of the Arrangement.

Guest Authors:
– Jie (Jeanne) Huang is an associate professor at the University of Sydney Law School, Australia, jeanne.huang@sydney.edu.au
– Winston Ma is an LLB student at the University of Sydney Law School, Australia

Reproduced (with minor edits) with permission from:
http://conflictoflaws.net/2019/arbitration-and-protest-in-hong-kong/

[1] E.g. http://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2019/07/24/arrangement-concerning-mutual-assistance-in-court-ordered-interim-measures-interpretations-from-a-mainland-china-perspective-part-i/?_ga=2.249539525.310814453.1570572449-887368654.1570572449.

[2] There are different opinions regarding whether Article 10 and 28 of Chinese Arbitration Law restrict the interim measures to arbitration administered by Chinese arbitration institutions. See the judgment of [2016] E 72 Cai Bao No. 427 issued by Wuhan Maritime Court. In this case, the Ocean Eleven Shipping Corporation initiated an arbitration in HKIAC against Lao Kai Yuan Mining Sole Co., Ltd. The applicant was a company in South Korea and the respondent a Chinese company. The parties had disputes over a voyage charter party. In order to ensure the enforcement of the coming award in Mainland China, the applicant applied to Wuhan Maritime Court to freeze USD 300,000 in the respondent’s bank account or seizure, impound or freeze other equivalent assets. The People’s Insurance Company provided equivalent insurance for the applicant’s property preservation application. Wuhan Maritime Court permitted the property preservation application according to Article 28 of Chinese Arbitration Law and Article 103 of the Civil Procedure Law. However, this case is inconsistent with majority cases where Chinese courts rejected to issue interim measures for arbitration administered by ad hoc or arbitration institutions registered outside of Mainland China.

[3] SPC Opinions on Providing Judicial Safeguard for the Building of Pilot Free Trade Zones, Fa Fa [2016] No. 34, http://www.court.gov.cn/fabu-xiangqing-34502.html.

[4] Art. 21(2) of the Interpretation of the SPC on the Application of the Special Maritime Procedure Law of the PRC, Fa Shi [2003] No. 3.

[5] Ibid., art. 18.

[6] Art. 3 of the Arrangement.

[7] Ibid., art. 2.

[8] China has made the economic integration between the Grater Bay Area a national strategy. The Greater Bay Area includes Hong Kong, Macao and Guangdong Province https://www.bayarea.gov.hk/sc/outline/plan.html.

[9] https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%E6%88%90%E4%B9%9F%E8%90%A7%E4%BD%95%EF%BC%8C%E8%B4%A5%E4%B9%9F%E8%90%A7%E4%BD%95.