AUSTRALIA has strengthened its position in the expanding market for international dispute resolution in the Asia Pacific region following an international forum in Seoul, Korea.
An Australian delegation that included NSW Attorney General, John Hatzsistergos, and other leading lawyers, met with Korea's leading corporate in-house counsel, corporate executives and law firm legal directors who specialise in international arbitration.
This comes as Sydney has been positioning itself as a competitor to the established seats for international arbitration in Hong Kong and Singapore, and follows the opening of a new dispute resolution venue in the city last year.
“This is why Australia is beginning to attract strong interest from corporations in the Asia Pacific region and beyond who are increasingly looking to avoid the uncertainty of litigation in foreign courts,” Hatzsistergos said.
Australian delegates at the forum, Navigating Choices in International Arbitration: Options for Korea in the Asia-Pacific Region, also included Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration (ACICA) president and Clayton Utz partner Professor Doug Jones AM, ACICA vice president and Holman Fenwick & Willan partner Alex Baykitch.
Head of Korean law firm Bae Kim & Lee’s international arbitration and litigation group, Kevin Kim said: “We were provided with clear and compelling reasons why Australia and ACICA are viable options for companies in Korea who use international arbitration as a means of resolving disputes, particularly those involving other companies based in Asia, but also from the Middle East, Europe and the Americas. The event was very successful and a fantastic opportunity for Korean companies and lawyers to meet with a distinguished Australian politician, Australian arbitrators and lawyers.”
Kim is also the executive director of the Korean Arbitrators Association and the secretary general of the International Council for Commercial Arbitration. He is a senior advisor to the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB), the only official arbitration institution in the Republic of Korea.
More than 200 arbitration cases and 500 mediation cases are referred to KCAB per year in matters concerning trade, joint investment, construction and maritime.
“International arbitration has emerged as the process of choice for businesses in the global economy as it delivers many benefits: expediency, efficiency, enforceability and commercial privacy," Clayton Utz' Jones said.
As Asia’s fourth largest economy, Korea has risen to prominence as a major international arbitration player in Asia, with a significant volume of disputes involving Korean parties now featuring in most of the major institutions around the world.
Alex Baykitch, Sydney-based partner of global firm Holman Fenwick Willan who has arbitrated commercial disputes in Seoul said Korea is an important trading partner for Australia.
"This event provided ACICA with an opportunity to highlight to key decision makers from major Korean corporations why Australia is an attractive venue for international arbitrations and is a credible and viable alternative to the more traditional centres in the Northern Hemisphere and within the Asian region.”
Recent studies by the International Legal Services Advisory Council have estimated that Australia’s total legal services export and cross-border income was worth $675 million in 2006-07.
A PricewaterhouseCoopers survey in 2008, 'International Arbitration: Corporate attitudes and practices', revealed 73 per cent of corporations prefer to use international arbitration to resolve their cross-border disputes rather than transnational litigation and saw arbitration as a means to successfully preserve business relationships.
Commonwealth Attorney General, Robert McClelland, said of the forum: “Governments have a role to play in creating a legal regime that respects and fosters arbitration.”
Hatzistergos said Australia has stable and supportive political and legal environments that position it well to capitalise on the booming global market for international dispute resolution.
“We enjoy very close ties to Asia and Europe, we have stable economic, political and legal systems and we boast some of the best legal practitioners in the world,” he said.
The Australian Federal Parliament last year passed reforms to ensure federal laws reflect the Model Law accepted as the world standard for arbitrating international commercial disputes by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law.