SINGAPORE (The Straits Times/Asia News Network) Some of Singapore's legal heavyweights are members of a new team tasked with looking into developing a mechanism to handle disputes among businesses here and in China.
They include Law Society of Singapore president Adrian Tan and Drew & Napier chief executive Cavinder Bull.
The team, comprising six legal experts each from Singapore and China, was unveiled at the Singapore-China International Commercial Dispute Resolution Conference on Thursday (April 7).
It will conduct research and make recommendations on the implementation of a joint dispute resolution mechanism, as well as propose a set of rules and procedures to meet the needs of businesses in both countries.
The team members have yet to meet, and their plans are still in the works.
Thursday's event, which was jointly held in Singapore and China as well as streamed online, was the second edition of the conference. It was previously held in Beijing, China, in 2019.
The event featured speeches and discussions by participants from the government, legal and business sectors of both countries. Topics included the latest developments in commercial dispute resolution.
A memorandum of cooperation to organise a joint annual conference on international commercial dispute resolution was inked between Singapore's Ministry of Law (MinLaw) and the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) during the conference.
Speaking at the event, Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong noted that dispute resolution exists to help businesses resolve conflicts as efficiently and effectively as possible.
More businesses will therefore be encouraged to operate from Singapore and China, work on the Belt and Road Initiative, as well as have their disputes resolved in a fair, transparent and efficient manner.
He also suggested two ways to deepen the legal and business cooperation between the countries.
The first was to consider developing a common set of commercial rules to be used by businesses in Singapore, China and even in other countries.
"A common set of rules will reduce misunderstanding and uncertainty due to differences, and ultimately... help to avoid conflicts upfront," said Tong.
The second was to strengthen people-to-people exchange between the countries, such as through secondment and exchange programmes, which will help law firms and businesses in both countries better understand each other's working environment and culture as well as business context.
The unveiling of the team members comes after MinLaw signed a memorandum of understanding with the CCPIT in 2020 to explore the feasibility of developing a joint dispute resolution mechanism between both countries.
Such a mechanism would include having a joint dispute resolution centre, which Tong said will provide confidence to companies operating in the region.
"It will complement our independent arbitration and mediation centres, and work alongside with them to better support our businesses," he added.
The other team members from Singapore are lawyers Daryl Chew, Chia Kim Huat and Hee Theng Fong - as well as Associate Professor Yip Man from Singapore Management University.
Hee told the media on Thursday that the different legal systems of Singapore and China, which affect issues such as the interpretation of contracts, would be a challenge. But this can be worked out by the team, he added.
Chew said one of the priorities of businesses is to promote and sustain long-term relationships with others.
“And while disputes may be inevitable, we want to find a way to resolve these disputes and in a way that preserves the relationships,” he added.
“And if there is a non- or less adversarial way of resolving disputes - for example, through mediation - this can be explored and promoted so as to reduce the risk of conflict.”