Where Is International Commercial Arbitration Going?

A seminar on International Commerical Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010

1. In giving an overview of potential future trends, there is obviously an element of “crystal ball gazing”, and the following suggestions are just my thoughts that are designed to encourage debate.

2. It is possible to discern the following trends in international commercial arbitration, in that there is likely to be:

2.1 A further increase in the number of arbitration cases;

2.2 A further increase in the number of arbitration centres to meet the demands for arbitration in particular in Asia, The Middle East, Russia, and South America;

2.3 A greater uniformity of the rules and laws governing international arbitration;

2.4 A risk of further “judicialisation” of arbitration (unless restrained);

2.5 A continued rise in international bilateral investment treaty arbitration[1]

2.6 An increasing diversity in the subject matter of international arbitration;

2.7 An increasing use of mediation and other forms of ADR.


3. The most obvious future trend for international commercial arbitration is that the number of cases is increasing. With the continuing expansion of international trade and investment, the number of arbitration cases in general will increase. In particular, the Far Eastern “boom” in arbitration is part of a global phenomenon. There is also a considerable increase in arbitration in Russia and South America.

4. Arbitration has become increasingly popular as large companies expand into these emerging markets. With domestic courts in such countries often unpredictable and vulnerable to corruption, companies regard arbitration as a more reliable and neutral option. Another attraction is that hearings are held in private, away from the scrutiny of politicians, shareholders and the media.

5. Whilst there are no statistics available to record the number of ad hoc arbitrations, the most established centres of arbitration report an increasing upsurge in demand.


6. New arbitration centres have been established to service this new level of business in Asia and the Middle East. In particular, in April 2009 LCIA opened its satellite branch in New Delhi, India, to create the first LCIA independent office outside London. This adds to LCIA’s previous joint venture in February 2008 with the Dubai International Financial Centre to form DIFC-LCIA.

7. The ICC also has, since 2008, had a branch of the Secretariat of the Court in Hong Kong and in Singapore, which has added to the dispute resolution options previously available to parties doing business in the Asia Pacific region. To reflect increasing international commercial trade, the balance of which is inexorably tipping geographically eastwards, it is anticipated that there will be considerable growth in international arbitration in India, China, and the Middle East. There is also likely to be growth in Russia (and its neighbouring countries) and South America.


8. There is an ineluctable trend towards a uniformity and harmonisation of the rules and laws governing international commercial arbitration. The last 20 years or so has seen an increase in uniformity of both arbitration rules and national legislations [2]. This is perhaps not surprising as national legislators will continue to be pushed by their own constituencies, particularly their business communities, to adapt their respective legal frameworks to the demands of international business practice for efficient dispute settlement machineries. Part of this process can be seen in the fact that since 2006 UNCITRAL has had its Working Group II engaged in a revision of its Rules, and have held many meetings at different locations across the globe to seek the views of a wide group of users of arbitration services.

9. Once the UNCITRAL Rules have been revised, it is expected that other institutions will follow suit. The ICC has already started to revise its Rules, and the LCIA will no doubt follow suit.

10. It has been said that the rules of the ICC, LCIA, and AAA, for example, “have much more in common than one would expect taking into account their locations and the legal traditions of the host countries” [3]. If one looks closely at the different Rules one can see many similarities and often identical solutions, which contributes to a global harmonisation of the Rules. This also reflects the fact that lawyers and arbitrators engaged in international arbitration are less dependent on their specific national particularities and more open and flexible to the specific needs of disputes in the international context. This increasing harmonisation of the rules is likely to continue; particularly once the new UNCITRAL Rules are adopted in the summer of 2010.


11. There is also a perceived trend towards “judicialisation” of international commercial arbitration, meaning that arbitrations tend to be conducted more frequently with the procedural intricacy and formality more native to litigation in national courts [4]. The problem seems to be most acute in the United States, where there is a tradition of broad-ranging “discovery”, as well as the possibility of challenging arbitral decisions [5].

12. The “judicialisation” has also occurred with more intervention by local courts in some parts of the world that has rendered the arbitral process more often akin to a formal judicial one. This has been described as a “tidal wave of arbitral law submerging international commercial arbitration” [6]. It would be helpful to check this trend, and to recalibrate; otherwise some of the positive features of arbitration – such as expedition, reduced cost, relative informality – may be lost. Arbitration does not need to be a mirror image of litigation. One should always bear in mind that each arbitration can be different and tailored to the specific needs of the dispute. Provided the parties remain, in effect, in control arbitration will remain true to its roots: “a peacemaker and not a stirrer-up of strife” (see Para 1.5 above)


13. In terms of the subject matter of arbitration, as the past has shown us, changes in technology and in international contract practice will dictate what the future subject matter of international arbitration will be. For instance, new types of contracts in fields such as telecommunication, the transfer of technology, genetic engineering, electronic commerce, entertainment and sports will in the future probably take a greater share of arbitration cases. The growing significance of intellectual property will also mean that the World Intellectual Property Organisation (“WIPO”) will need to expand.


14. There is presently a great variety throughout the world as to what role arbitrators may play in the promotion of amicable settlements between the parties. In countries such as China, Germany, and Japan, at least in domestic arbitrations, there is an expectation by the parties and their lawyers that the arbitrators, at some stage in the procedure, and in consultation with the parties, will try to promote an amicable settlement and suggest solutions for such settlement. In these countries, this is permitted by law and leads to a majority of domestic arbitration cases ending in such amicable settlement. In many other countries, such a role of the arbitrators is either not permitted by law or at least not performed in practice.

15. Research has shown that companies would often like to have an option for mediation available, because an amicable settlement provides a better basis for future business relations between the parties. The traditions in countries such as China may have an impact on arbitration in other parts of the world in promoting arbitral procedures in which an amicable settlement is proactively sought with the consent of the parties.

16. Recently, in December 2009, the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (“CEDR”) published its own Rules for the Facilitation of Settlement in International Arbitration. If these Rules are adopted by parties, either on an ad hoc basis or as part of the underlying contract between them, the arbitral tribunal would then be able to invite the parties to participate in a first procedural meeting, at which it will “ensure that [they] are aware of the different resolution processes such as mediation which, in the opinion of the tribunal, might assist the parties”; will allow the tribunal to give a preliminary view on the merits and issues in the case; and the parties will agree to the inclusion of a mediation window in the arbitration proceedings to make it easier for them to come to an amicable settlement, with arbitration proceedings being adjourned so that the mediation can proceed. The CEDR Rules are akin to the pre-action protocols in English Court proceedings; and it is, perhaps not surprising, that it was Lord Woolf who introduced the new Rules in December 2009.

Click here for information on the origins of international commercial arbitration.


[1]There are now more than 2,400 BITs that provide for arbitration between the host state and foreign investors

[2]See James H. Carter, “The International Commercial Arbitration Explosion: More Rules, More Laws, More Books, So What? in (1994) 15 Mich. J Int’l 785 (noting the “marked trend towards relative standardisation of a number of aspects of transnational arbitration law and procedure”).

[3]Elena V Helmer, “International Commercial Arbitration, Americanized, “Civilised”, or Harmonised?” (2003) Ohio St. J on Disp, Resol 35 at 55 .

[4]Lillich and Brower, International Arbitration in the 21st Century: Towards Judicialisation and Conformity (Brill, 1994)

[5]Joshua D Rievman, “How the Creep of United States Litigation-Style Discovery and Appellate Rights Affects the Efficiency and Cost-

Efficacy of Arbitration in the United States”

[6]Fali S. Nariman, “The Spirit of Arbitration: the Tenth Annual Goff Lecture” in (2000) 16 Arb Int’l 261 at 262


Arbitration an Instrument for International Commercial Disputes

Extract of a Seminar on International Commercial Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010.
  1. In a globalised economy, the commercial world looks increasingly towards arbitration as the best method for international dispute resolution. Arbitration offers a neutral and flexible forum, tailored to the parties’ wishes and the nature of the dispute.
  2. International commercial arbitration has a long history. The business community places trust in the arbitral process as it gives them the confidence to expand even into countries where the national court system may be seen as corrupt or to fail to meet basic standards of natural justice.
  3. The LCIA has had the confidence to set up a satellite office in India. It is too early to say how successful LCIA India will prove to be; as it will only be after several years will we know how many businesses choose India as the seat of arbitration in their arbitration agreements that are currently being negotiated and drafted. Currently, India has got a chequered history in terms of international commercial arbitration, with past difficulties over enforcing international arbitration awards, but it may be that there has been a culture change and there are grounds for optimism in arbitration in India.
  4. The big success story, which has proved to be the cornerstone of international commercial arbitration, has been the NYC. It is now over 50 years old, and has stood the test of time. The number of countries who have signed up to it is truly impressive, and way above any recognition treaties in the field of commercial litigation.
  5. There will always be some tension between the national court systems of different countries and international commercial arbitration; that is only natural. But, it is hoped that with the greater harmonisation of arbitration Rules and laws, this tension can be reduced. The case of West Tankers, however, is an unfortunate set back on this road; but, thankfully, the decision is of limited scope. It is to be anticipated that the “relay race”, to which Lord Mustill once compared the relationship of arbitration and the support mechanisms of the national court system, will continue.
  6. In short, international commercial arbitration has got a bright future.


Arbitration in Dubai – the establishment of DIFC-LCIA

Extract of a Seminar on International Commercial Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010.
  1. Since oil was discovered in Dubai in 1966, trade, banking, finance, insurance and construction activities have flourished.
  2. History has always shown that whenever there is human endeavour, there is conflict; and it is necessary to establish a procedure for dispute resolution.
  3. In 2003 the Dubai International Arbitration Centre (“DIAC“) was conceived. DIAC has grown over the years, from a case load of 34 cases in 2004 to now over 100 cases registered in 2009.
  4. In February 2008, the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC“) and the LCIA announced the launch of the DIFC/LCIA Arbitration Centre in Dubai. This joint venture allows DIFC access to LCIA’s international network of arbitrators. The DIFC-LCIA Rules are based on the current LCIA Rules, with minor amendments to account for local requirements.
  5. The DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre is open to any parties who agree to use it to settle their commercial disputes as the Arbitration Law does not require disputes to have any connection with the DIFC – whether through the parties, the performance of the contract or the place of execution of the contract.
  6. In September 2008 DIFC unveiled its new Arbitration Law, which provides the legal framework of the new DIFC-LCIA Arbitration Centre. The DIFC has its own courts. The DIFC courts have been established to deal exclusively with all cases and claims arising out of the DIFC and its operations. The legal framework is based on English common law principles, and the language of the Court is English.
  7. The UAE has previously had a reputation of being a difficult place in which to enforce arbitral awards. There have been instances where highly technical points have been accepted as a valid reason not to enforce an award (such as when an award was thrown out because the documents were not signed on every page, but signed at the end and initially on every page).
  8. However, past problems on enforcement are likely to be less of a problem in future in light of the UAE’s ratification of the NYC as of November 2006.
  9. In addition, there is a procedure for DIFC Court judgments to be enforced through the execution department of the Dubai Court. The decisions of the DIFC Court will be presented (with an Arabic translation) to the execution judge who will, without interference, convert the DIFC judgment into a judgement of the Dubai Court, which is enforceable not only in Dubai, but throughout the rest of the UAE and in the Gulf Cooperation Council under the 1983 Riyadh Convention.

Arbitration in India – the establishment of LCIA India

Extract of a Seminar on International Commercial Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010.
  1. The establishment of LCIA India is the first time that any of the international arbitration institutions have opened a satellite office in India. LCIA India’s Arbitration Rules were published on 17 April 2010[1].
  2. LCIA India will allow disputes involving foreign companies with interests in India to resolve contractual claims under London arbitration rules without having to go offshore. Prior to LCIA India being established in April 2009, parties were faced with the choice of arranging ad hoc arbitrations[2], or having to take their legal disputes to an established arbitration centre such as London, Paris or Singapore, or trusting the often-chaotic and unreliable Indian domestic courts.
  3. At present, there is a backlog of 31.18 million cases in the Indian judicial system[3]. Some cases may take as long as 20 years to be resolved, with companies and individuals often inheriting them from the original parties. For India, arbitration has therefore long been seen as the solution to resolving India-related disputes for commercial parties. To support this movement, in November 2009, the London Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (“CIArb”) set up its India Chapter in Delhi.
  4. It has to be recognised that the Indian courts have, in the past, come up with some controversial arbitration-related decisions. There have also been oddities in legislation, such as those provisions of the law in India (now repealed) which stated that where the governing law was that of India, the ensuing award was deemed to be a domestic award, even though the seat of the arbitration was in a foreign State[4].
  5. Indian courts have previously adopted an interventionist approach towards the conduct of arbitration proceedings; and have assumed the power to grant injunctions restraining arbitration proceedings and to set aside awards that they consider to be contrary to Indian law. In two infamous decisions dating back to the 1980s and 1990s, the Indian courts set aside awards rendered elsewhere on the stated basis that the substance of the disputes was governed by Indian law[5]. There have also been three recent Indian court cases which have even placed in question the well-established principle of competence-competence, which is recognised in the vast majority of countries including under French law, German law and English law (Arbitration Act 1996 ss. 30 – 32) and in institutional rules such as LCIA Article 23, ICC Article 6, and UNCITRAL, Article 21[6].
  6. These decisions cannot entirely be dismissed as a problem of the past; as is evidenced by the case of Venture Global Engineering v Satyam Computer Services Limited ((2008) 4 SCC 190) where the Indian Supreme Court held that an award rendered in London that was the object of enforcement proceedings in the United States could be set aside in India on the exclusive basis that the parties had chosen Indian law to govern the substance of their dispute. The Indian Supreme Court held that foreign awards may be challenged under Part 1 of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, unless the parties have specifically agreed otherwise; and in considering any such challenge, the Indian courts can set the award aside on the grounds of public policy if it contravenes any substantive provisions of Indian law. This broad application of the NYC right to refuse to enforce an arbitral award on public policy grounds goes far beyond the interpretation applied by the national courts of most NYC signatories. .
  7. However, a recent High Court decision in Max India Limited v General Binding Corporation (FAO 193/2009) has provided a little optimism that the interventionist approach of the Indian courts towards arbitration may now be shifting. In Max India, which involved an agreement to arbitrate in Singapore under the rules of SIAC, the Appellate Court of India held that Part 1 of the Indian Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 had been excluded and that the arbitration should continue in Singapore[7].
  8. India also only currently enforces foreign arbitration awards from those countries it has “notified” (which encompasses only about 44 of the countries that are signatories to the NYC), which includes (amongst others) the United States, Singapore and England. In addition, before ordering enforcement and execution of a foreign award, Indian courts will test the enforceability of such awards under Indian law and may refuse enforcement on “public policy” grounds. The enforcement process in India can often be quite long, with enforcement periods ranging from 6 months to 3 years.
  9. That said, there is reason to hope that India is on the road to establishing itself as a more arbitration-friendly jurisdiction for international disputes; and many consider that the Indian legal services sector could be a major source of revenue.


[1] The Rules include several new provisions aimed at expediting proceedings, including an express requirement that all prospective arbitrators confirm their ability to devote sufficient time to ensure the expeditious conduct of the arbitration

[2] These often resembled the very Indian court proceedings which they were meant to substitute and were considered to be procedurally cumbersome and time consuming.

[3] iGovernment, 17 August 2009, PM, Chief Justice Differ on Backlog of Cases.   The article breaks the 31.18 million down as Supreme Court, 52,592; High Court: 4,017,956; and subordinate courts: 27,119,092.
[4] Such an award is usually regarded as a foreign (or international) award under the NYC.
[5] Indian Organic Chemical Ltd v Subsidiary 1 (US) Subsidiary 2 (US) and Chemtex Fibres Inc (Parent Company) (US) (1979) IV Ybk Comm Arb 271; and Union of India and Ors v Lief Hoegh Co (Norway) (1984) IX Ybk Comm Arb 405
[6] See Oil & Natural Gas Commission v Western Company of North America (1987) All Indian Reports SC 674; and National Thermal Power Corporation v The Singer Corp et al 1992 (3) 7 Judgments Today SC 198; See also Paulsson, “The New York Convention’s Misadventures in India” (1992) 7 Intl Arb Rep 18; and Renasugar Power Co Ltd (India) v General Electric Co (US) (1995)  XX Ybk Comm Arb 681
[7] See A Ray and D Sabharwal, “Competence-Competence: An Indian Trilogy” (2007) Mealey’s Int Arb Rep Vol 22 Issue 4.
[8] To reduce the scope of intervention by the Indian courts, it is good practice to expressly exclude part 1 of the Act even when all the elements of an arbitration clause specify another law and jurisdiction besides that of India.

Recognition and Enforcement Of International Commercial Arbitration Awards

Extract of a Seminar on International Commerical Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010.
  1. In the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards, the arbitral process is reliant upon national systems of law. This is the classic example of what Lord Mustill meant when he referred to the relationship between the national courts and arbitration being like a relay race. The arbitral tribunal, whilst having sufficient powers to make the award, has no coercive powers to force a reluctant party to comply with the award. This is where the national court system takes up the baton.
  2. In this regard, the NYC has been very successful as a system in obtaining the recognition and enforcement of international awards; and it continues to be the cornerstone of international commercial arbitration. Indeed, the NYC has been eulogised as “the single most important pillar on which the edifice of international arbitration rests[1] (Wetter, “The Present Status of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC; An Appraisal” (1990) 1 Am Rev Intl Arb 91). The NYC has provided a considerable degree of uniformity in the recognition and enforcement of awards. It enshrines a strong pro-enforcement policy and there are, purposefully, very few grounds for objecting to recognition and enforcement under the NYC.
  3. Internationally, it is easier to obtain recognition and enforcement of an international arbitral award than it is of a foreign court judgment (which is dependent on a bilateral treaty of recognition, or within EU Member States under The Judgments Regulation). It is one of the main advantages of arbitration as opposed to litigation in resolving international commercial disputes. This is due to the fact that the provisions for the enforcement of foreign court judgments are less well developed with no recognition treaties that come anywhere near to the widespread adoption of the NYC, which has been adopted by 144 countries.
  4. The available statistics suggest that most arbitral awards are in fact carried out voluntarily. In a study carried out by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP in 2008 [2],it found that only in 11% of cases did participants need to proceed to enforce an award and, in those cases, in fewer than 20% did the enforcing parties encounter difficulties in enforcement. There are also often commercial pressures on a party to comply with an award.
  5. Before considering recognition and enforcement in detail, it is worth just mentioning the limited scope of the ability to challenge an award by way of appeal in the seat of arbitration. In considering whether or not it is possible to challenge an arbitral award, it is necessary to look at the applicable Rules of Arbitration[3], as well as the law of the seat of arbitration. Each state has its own concept of the level of control it wishes to exercise over the arbitral process, and this can vary (as well as distinguish between domestic and international arbitration). If the seat of the arbitration is London, the appeal is to the Commercial Court of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of Justice; if it is in France, it is to the Cour D’Appel, Paris; and if in Switzerland, it is to the Swiss Federal Tribunal.
  6. Challenges to awards by way of an appeal are difficult to make; and, purposefully so, as the decisions of arbitrators are meant to be final and binding[4]. Having said that, in the case of Shell Egypt West Manzala GmbH & Anor v Dana Gas Egypt Ltd[5] the English High Court held that the UNICTRAL Rules that provide for “final, conclusive and binding” does not exclude the possibility of appeal on a point of law. It is, therefore, important that parties agreeing to arbitrate in London under the UNICTRAL Rules include clear and unambiguous wording in their arbitration clause if they want to prevent the possibility of an appeal on a question of law.
  7. This is because the legal system recognises that the parties have decided that they are to be bound by the decision of the arbitrators as an alternative to the national court. The law, therefore, gives effect to the intention of the parties and enforces the award just as it would a national court judgment. The House of Lords decision in Lesotho Highlands Development Authority v Impregilo SpA and others[6] clarifies the basis on which arbitral awards may be challenged in the English courts and affirms the underlying policy of the English Arbitration Act 1996, which is to reduce court intervention in the arbitration process to a minimum.
  8. In terms of the recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards, it should be noted that – unlike a challenge to the award by way of an appeal – this will probably not take place in the seat of arbitration; as the seat of arbitration may specifically have been chosen for its neutrality to the parties. Thus, it will be entirely fortuitous if the party to whom enforcement is required happens to have assets located within the neutral country chosen as the seat of the arbitration.
  9. The key consideration on enforcement is obviously the location of assets to enforce against; and the application for recognition and enforcement will be driven by that factor. In such an application, the powers of the state in which those assets are located are exercised through its national courts.
  10. The method of recognition and enforcement to be adopted depends on the place where the award was made – i.e. whether it qualifies as a NYC award. As there are 144 countries that are signatories, this is often not a point of significant practical importance.
  11. It also depends on the relevant provisions of the law at the place of intended enforcement. The procedure to be followed in any given case will vary from country to country, and it is important to obtain advice from experienced lawyers who practise in the particular jurisdiction where enforcement of an arbitral award is sought.
  12. In terms of procedure, by way of example, there may be differences in the time limits for making the application. In England, it is 6 years; but in the US it is 3 years. Also, it is often necessary to have the original or certified copies of the arbitration agreement and award. It may also be necessary to serve a translation of the award, which can sometimes require the formality of obtaining consular attestation in the country of origin.
  13. There are several different ways in which a national legal system can provide for the enforcement of arbitral awards:
    1. Where the laws of the country of enforcement provide that, with the leave of the court, the award of an arbitral tribunal can be enforced directly without the need for deposit or registration (as in England).
    2. Where the award is deposited, or registered, with a court following which it may be enforced as if it is a judgement of that court (as in Switzerland).
    3. Where it is necessary to apply to the court for some form of recognition as a preliminary step to enforcement (as in France).
  14. The formalities required under the NYC are straightforward. The party seeking such recognition and enforcement is required to produce to the relevant court the duly authenticated original award, or a duly certified copy of it; and the original agreement to arbitrate, or a duly certified copy of it. If the award and the arbitration agreement are not in the official language of the country in which recognition and enforcement is sought, certified translations are needed[7].
  15. Once the necessary documents have been supplied, the court will grant recognition and enforcement unless one or more of the 5 grounds for refusal, listed in the NYC, are present. The burden of proof for establishing any ground is upon the party seeking to object to the enforcement; and, even then, there is a residual discretion to enforce the award, The grounds are as follows:
    1. The parties to the arbitration agreement were, under the law applicable to them, under some incapacity, or the said agreement is not valid under the law to which the parties have subjected it or, failing any indication thereon, under the law of the country where the award was made;
    2. The party against whom the award is invoked was not given proper notice of the appointment of the arbitrator or of the arbitration proceedings or was otherwise unable to present his case; or
    3. The award deals with a dispute not contemplated by or not falling within the terms of the submission to arbitration, or it contains decisions on matters beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration, provided that, if the decisions on matters submitted to arbitration can be separated from those not so submitted, that part of the award which contains decisions on matters submitted to arbitration may be recognised and enforced; or
    4. The composition of the arbitral authority or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties, or, failing such agreement, was not in accordance with the law of the country where the arbitration took place; or
    5. The award has not yet become binding on the parties, or has been set aside or suspended by a competent authority of the country in which, or under the law of which, the award was made.
  16. For a recent Court of Appeal judgement on the first ground – where the arbitration agreement underlying the award is “not valid under the law to which the parties have subjected it or, failing any indication thereon, under the law of the country where the award was mad.” – the English Court of Appeal has recently refused enforcement of a NYC award.
  17. In Dallah Estate and Tourism Holding Company v Ministry of Religious Affairs of the Government of Pakistan[8] Dallah sought unsuccessfully to enforce in England a US$20m award it had obtained against the Ministry in an ICC arbitration in Paris.
  18. Dallah was a Saudi Arabian company that provided accommodation, transport and other services to Muslims undertaking the Haj. The Ministry was responsible for the safety and welfare of Muslims from Pakistan. The Ministry was not named as a party to the contract containing the arbitration agreement, and did not sign it. During the arbitration, the arbitral tribunal (which included Lord Mustill) decided that the Ministry was a party to the arbitration agreement. In the absence of any governing law clause (or any other indication in the contract as to which law should be applied to determine whether the Ministry was a party) the arbitral tribunal had applied “transnational general principles and usages reflecting the fundamental requirements of justice in international trade and the concept of good faith in business.
  19. In the English enforcement proceedings, pursuant to the NYC (and s. 103 of Arbitration Act 1996) the question whether the Ministry was a party to the arbitration agreement had to be determined applying French law, as the “law of the country where the award was made”. Having considered evidence from French law experts, Aikens J decided that the Ministry had proved under French law it was not a party to the arbitration agreement. This had the consequence that the arbitration agreement underlying the award was “not valid” for the purposes of enforcement under the NYC.
  20. Dallah appealed to the Court of Appeal, which held:
  1. Where enforcement of a NYC award in England is opposed on the basis that the arbitration agreement is “not valid”, the court is required to consider all relevant factual evidence relied on by the party seeking to establish that the arbitration agreement is “not valid”.   Where the same factual evidence was also considered by the arbitral tribunal, the court is required to carry out a rehearing rather than merely a review.
  2. It is not necessary for the party opposing enforcement also to seek to have the award set aside by the courts at the seat of arbitration.  Thus, the fact that the Ministry had not sought to challenge the award in the supervisory court (i.e. France) did not render the award final and conclusive between the parties.
  3. Whilst the Court of Appeal retained some discretion to permit enforcement even when one of the grounds for refusal had been established, the discretion should not be exercised when the Ministry had never been a party to the arbitration agreement.

Leave to appeal to the Supreme Court in Dallah was given in January 2010.


[1] Wetter, “The Present Status of the International Court of Arbitration of the ICC; An Appraisal” (1990) 1 Am Rev Intl Arb 91

[2] See the study by the School of International Arbitration and Queen Mary, University of London (sponsored by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP entitled “International Arbitration: Corporate Attitudes and Practices 2008”.

[3]The Rules of art 32 of UNCITRAL, the LCIA, and the ICC each state that an arbitral award is final and binding.

[4] The words “final, conclusive and binding” does not exclude the possibility of an appeal on a point of law.  Article 26.9 of the LCIA Arbitration Rules and Article 28(6) of the ICC Rules include wording which is effective to exclude the right of appeal (under section 69 of the Arbitration Act 1996) to the English Court.  The UNICTRAL Rules do not contain such wording.

[5] [2009] EWHC 2097

[6] [2005] UKHL 43

[7] Art IV(2)

[8] [2009] EWCA Civ 755

Relationship Between National Courts and International Commercial Arbitration


Extract of a Seminar on International Commercial Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010

It is important to reflect on the current relationship between national courts and international commercial arbitration as both must co-exist together. Because arbitration is essentially a consensual process, where there is a reluctant party it is sometimes necessary to use the court’s coercive powers.

The nature of this relationship has been compared to a relay race. As Lord Mustill put it[1]:

“Ideally, the handling of arbitral disputes should resemble a relay race. In the initial stages, before the arbitrators are seized of the dispute, the baton is in the grasp of the court; for at that stage there is no other organisation which could take steps to prevent the arbitration agreement from being ineffectual. When the arbitrators take charge they take over the baton and retain it until they have made an award. At this point, having no longer a function to fulfil, the arbitrators hand back the baton so that the court can, in case of need, lend its coercive powers to the enforcement of the award.”

There is a tension that lies at the heart of the relationship of the courts and arbitration. On the one hand, the concept of arbitration as a consensual process, reinforced by the ideas of transnationalism, leans against the involvement of the mechanisms of state through the medium of a municipal court. On the other side, there is the plain fact, palatable or not, that it is only a court that possesses coercive powers which can rescue the arbitration if it is in danger of foundering[2].

In the recent case of West Tankers the tension that lies between international commercial arbitration and the intervention of the courts in the arbitral process has come to the fore.

Click on the link to read more about West Tankers and its effect on anti-suit injunctions.


[1] Lord Mustill, “Comments and Conclusions in Conservatory Provisional Measures in International Arbitration”, 9th Joint Colloquium
(ICC Publication, 1993)
[2] Coppee Levalin NV v Ken-Ren Fertilisers and Chemicals [1994] 2 Lloyd’s Rep 109 at 116 (HL), Lord Mustill

The European Commission’s Green Paper On Judgments Regulation

Extract of a Seminar on International Commerical Arbitration Delivered by Hefin Rees on 13th May 2010.
  1. On 21 April 2009 the European Commission published its report on the Judgments Regulation[1] together with a Green Paper[2] introducing a consultation on the relationship between the Judgements Regulation and arbitration. The Green Paper raises the question as to whether arbitration should be brought within the scope of the Judgments Regulation and suggests a deletion of the exclusion of arbitration from its scope.
  2. Section 7 of the Green Paper addresses the issue of the integration of international arbitration in the scope of the Brussels 1 Regulation. The European Commission considers that its proposal would allow for more standard recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards as well as extending the reach of the provisional and conservatory measures that may be awarded by a court assisting the arbitral process.
  3. This Green Paper has been criticised by many practitioners as being incompatible with the NYC, and it now appears that the European Commission will not engage in a risky overhaul of a system of enforcement under the NYC that is already working well within Europe.

Click here to read Recognition and Enforcement of International Commercial Arbitration Awards


[1] Report on the application of Regulation 44/2001 COM (2009) 174.

[2] Green Paper on the review of Regulation 44/2001