In a further development of the on-going saga of development of arbitral institutions in China, on Thursday 11 April 2013, a press conference was held in Shanghai to announce the establishment of the Shanghai International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (“SIETAC” or 上海国际经济贸易仲裁委员会). SIETAC is also to be known as the Shanghai International Arbitration Centre (“SHIAC” or 上海国际仲裁中心). The official logo of the new organisation uses “SHIAC” for short.
Accordingly to the official announcement of the SHIAC:
- Upon the approval by the Shanghai Municipal Government and agreed by the Shanghai Commission for Public Sector Reform, the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission Shanghai Sub-commission (“CIETAC Shanghai”) has officially become the SIETAC. It will also use the SHIAC concurrently as the official name.
- The SHIAC has promulgated new versions of Arbitration Rules, as well as Panel of Arbitrators, which will be effective in about two weeks’ time, as from 1 May 2013.
- The SHIAC accepts cases upon agreement between parties to arbitrate by (1) SIETAC, (2) SHIAC, as well as (3) CIETAC Shanghai.
The press conference was widely reported in the media, including the official website of the Shanghai Government.
By holding a high profile press conference, coupled with new versions of Arbitration Rules and Panel of Arbitrators, it is clear that the SHIAC wishes to enter into a new chapter.
For those who have been following the news regarding arbitration in China, the move should not come as a big surprise.
Back in 1 May 2012, when the Beijing Headquarters of the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (“CIETAC Beijing” or 中国国际经济贸易仲裁委员会) announced the adoption of a new set of Arbitration Rules, dissatisfaction was expressed by two of its Sub-commissions, namely the Sub-commission based in Shenzhen (known as the South China Sub-commission), as well as the Sub-commission based in Shanghai.
As from 22 October 2012, the South China Sub-commission changed its name to the South China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (“SCIETAC” or 华南国际经济贸易仲裁委员会), which is also known as the Shenzhen Court of International Arbitration (“SCIA” or 深圳国际仲裁院). The official logo of the new organisation uses “SCIA” for short. As from 1 December 2012, the SCIA adopted its own Arbitration Rules as well as Panel of Arbitrators.
Following on from the above developments in Shenzhen, it seems natural that similar developments would take place in Shanghai.
As at the time of writing, CIETAC Beijing has not responded. In the most recent announcement by CIETAC Beijing at the end of last year on 31 December 2012, CIETAC Beijing branded the change of name in Shenzhen “without authorization and unlawful”, and insisted that the organisation in Shenzhen should remain as a sub-commission of CIETAC Beijing. CIETAC Beijing has also set up its own Secretariat in Shanghai and Shenzhen, which is independent of SHIAC and SCIA. The SHIAC announcement maintains the previous Shanghai position, that CIETAC Shanghai was a distinct entity from CIETAC Beijing.
In the light of the above, it will be interesting to monitor any response from CIETAC Beijing regarding the latest development in Shanghai.
In the meantime, great care should be taken by parties who wish to draft an arbitration clause for arbitration in China. For example, in Shanghai, apart from the abovementioned SHIAC, and CIETAC Beijing’s Secretariat in Shanghai, there is also the Shanghai Arbitration Commission (上海仲裁委员会), which is yet another independent arbitration commission. Similarly in Shenzhen, apart from the abovementioned SCIA, and CIETAC Beijing’s Secretariat in Shenzhen, there is also the Shenzhen Arbitration Commission (深圳仲裁委员会). Parties should choose an arbitration institution which is most suitable to its needs. Hogan Lovells has extensive experience in advising clients upon the drafting of arbitration and alternative dispute resolution provisions.