Professor Steve Ngo at the Bali Arbitration Summit (Image from Bali International Arbitration & Mediation Centre)

Beihai Asia International Arbitration Centre opens in Singapore, to be helmed by Prof Steve Ngo

The Beihai Asia International Arbitration centre (BAIAC) opens in Singapore today (8 August). The BAIAC, which was set up by the Beihai Arbitration Commission (BAC) headquartered in China, will provide more efficient and cheaper international arbitration services for small to medium value disputes in cross-border transactions, with a focus on China and Asean. The centre will form a China-Asean panel of arbitrators to promote people-to-people exchanges.

“As part of the BAC’s continuous expansion into Asean, it has chosen Singapore as its first port of call because of Singapore’s position as the legal and financial hub of South-east Asia,” said vice-chairman of the BAC, Zhu Jifan.

“Singapore’s position as an international dispute resolution hub is trusted to serve the region for disputes arising from the Belt and Road Initiative, Asian trade cooperation, and investments between Chinese and Asean parties,” said the commission in a media statement.

Singaporean arbitration practitioner Professor Steve Ngo was appointed as the centre’s founding president. Prof Ngo has range of experiences with arbitration in China, India, Indonesia, and Southeast Asia.

Prof Ngo will be assisted by a panel of committee members which include former Secretary of India’s Minister of Law and Justice, Professor PK Malhotra; retired Attorney-General and former Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Professor Mohan Peiris; managing partner of Frans Winarta & Partners in Indonesia, Professor Frans Winarta; and senior partner at Wanyi Law Firm in Nanning, Guangxi, China, Wang Yin Wen.

Prof Ngo said that Singapore is a trusted and neutral arbitration location, noting that in recent times there have been many disputants finding arbitration to be prohibitively expensive and proceedings becoming increasingly complicated.

The Professor added, “Asia by and large is a price- and cultural-sensitive region where we need to start considering the needs of arbitration users, specifically small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),” he added.

The BAIAC bases its arbitration rules on the 2013 United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) rules with some modification. This includes a small claims procedure for a speedier and more economical way to address small value disputes.

The commission also said that the fees at BAIAC will be pegged at a “more reasonable” rate to encourage more disputes to be arbitrated more effectively.

The BAC has so far set up hearing centres in 29 cities in China to provide arbitration services which has handled about 47,000 cases within the first six months of 2019.

The opening of the BAIAC in Singapore comes a day after the signing of the Singapore Convention on Mediation on Wednesday (7 August) by 46 countries including US and China which aims to provide for the enforcement of mediated settlement agreements across countries. PM Lee has described the signing of the Convention as a “powerful statement in support of multilateralism”.

The convention allows for the involvement of a neutral party to work with parties on both sides of a mediation to come to an agreement in a less antagonistic setting than a litigation or arbitration.