US, China among 46 countries to sign pact, Singapore hopes to emerge as global mediation hub

K.Shanmugam Reuters

A total of 46 countries including US and China signed the Singapore Convention on Mediation on Wednesday, the day when it opened for signature. Singapore was the first country to sign the treaty, represented by its Law Minister K Shanmugam.

This treaty, also called the United Nations (UN) Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, will provide for the enforcement of mediated settlement agreements across the countries.

On Wednesday, ministers and senior government officials from 70 countries attended the signing ceremony which took place at Singapore's Shangri-La Hotel. It should be noted that the Republic was recommended to host the signing ceremony by the UN Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).

Those states which have signed and confirmed the treaty will now have to ensure that international commercial settlement agreements are enforced by their courts. However, currently mediated settlement agreements cannot be enforced across country borders if the agreement is a result of mediation negotiations between at least two commercial parties in a dispute.

The courts of the countries which have signed the agreement are expected to handle the applications to enforce such settlement agreements or to allow one party to solicit the agreement to prove that the dispute has already been resolved.

As per the rules, the agreement will be effective after receiving formal consent from at least three nations. Earlier, at least 20 countries indicated their intention to sign the treaty while among Asian economic heavyweight nations, India and South Korea have already signed.

PM Lee
Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong talks with government officials during the Plenary session at the 27th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Kuala Lumpur Reuters

As per The Straits Times, while addressing the ministers and officials Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that the treaty "demonstrates that countries are capable of achieving consensus, with effort, creativity, and leadership." He also added that a group of States have come together on the signing day to "recommit ourselves to multilateralism and to declare that we remain open for business."

"We are prepared to make binding commitments, and we are committed to preserving our relationships," PM Lee mentioned.

In addition, Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam stated that the Republic has played a key role in the negotiations and drafting of the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation. More than that, Singapore authorities now believe that the convention will put the country on the world map in terms of mediation.

It should be also noted that the during the treaty signing ceremony Singapore also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the UN for the building of a UNCITRAL Academy in the South-East Asian country and it will be also responsible for installation of the Singapore Convention Conference. Next such conference will take place on September 1, 2020.