Countries in the Pacific will have to work together to implement international arbitration reform if they want to improve their collective access to international markets and investment, according to ongoing discussions at the inaugural South Pacific International Arbitration Conference, organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Government of Fiji, and the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Regional Center for Asia and the Pacific, in Nadi.
The conference, the first-of-its-kind on international arbitration in the Pacific, brings together over 130 delegates including government officials, policymakers, judges, law practitioners, private sector representatives, other development partners, and experts to discuss barriers to foreign direct investment and cross-border trade and come up with solutions to reduce the risk and cost of doing business in the Pacific.
International arbitration—a private dispute resolution mechanism that involves parties from different countries submitting their dispute to a neutral arbitrator or panel—is a globally preferred method for resolving cross-border commercial disputes. The panel will render their decision in the form of an arbitral award, which is enforceable in the 157 countries that adopted the Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, also known as the New York Convention. Fiji has embarked on international arbitration reform, having joined the New York Convention and then enacted its International Arbitration Act in 2017, a state-of-the-art legislative framework for international arbitration, enhancing Fiji’s reputation as a place for business and international dispute resolution.
“Data and experience from around the world clearly shows that companies engaged in cross-border trade and investment assign a high degree of risk to developing countries with weak or uncertain dispute resolution systems, and that efficient and effective arbitration frameworks increase confidence and encourage cross-border investment and trade,” said Christopher Stephens, ADB’s General Counsel.
The Cook Islands, Fiji, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands are so far the only Pacific countries to have become parties to the New York Convention legal infrastructure in place to help countries take on international arbitration reform.
“As cross-border trade flows increase, and regional trade agreements offer opportunities for higher economic growth, the need for international arbitration has never been more urgent in the Pacific region,” said Christina Pak, ADB’s Senior Counsel. “International arbitration can also play a critical role in attracting more international climate finance and climate investments into the Pacific region.”