The new service is based in the same building as and will supplement the work of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC). Singapore's Minister of Law, K Shanmugam, told launch event attendees that the two bodies would offer a joint 'Arb-Med-Arb' service, giving parties the opportunity to resolve disputes referred to arbitration through mediation first.
"The launch of SIMC is a major milestone in Singapore's development as a regional dispute resolution hub," he said.
"SIMC's mediation services will complement our successful arbitration sector and upcoming enhanced international litigation capabilities provided by the Singapore International Commercial Court. Our focus on offering this complete suite of dispute resolution options for international commercial cases sets us apart from other jurisdictions, and enhances our standing as a one-stop dispute resolution centre," he said.
Singapore plans to establish an International Commercial Court as a division of the Singapore High Court early next year. The creation of the new division will require amendments to Singapore's constitution, which were approved this week by Singapore's parliament.
The creation of the SIMC was one of a number of recommendations made by an expert panel appointed by the Singapore government to consider how the city state could develop into a centre for international commercial mediation. A new regulatory body, the Singapore International Mediation Institute, has been established to accredit mediators and set standards and practices, and a new mediation law with provisions on enforceability and confidentiality is currently being drafted.
At the launch event, the SIMC also announced the members of its eight-strong board of directors, chaired by English barrister Edwin Glasgow QC who also led the expert panel. Other members include Dr William Ury, who is the co-author of the world's bestselling book on negotiation, and Singapore's ambassador-at-large Professor Tommy Koh.
"The SIMC has appointed a really strong board of directors, who are very well respected in the region," said dispute resolution expert Helen Waddell of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com. "Potential users of the new mediation centre can therefore be assured that there are quality mediators at the helm, with international expertise and a commercial approach."
The new Arb-Med-Arb service will allow for a dispute referred to arbitration to be stayed while the parties attempt to resolve their differences through mediation. If they are able to do so, their mediation settlement could be recorded as a consent award which would generally be enforceable in any of the 150 countries that are signatories to the New York Convention. If the parties are unable to resolve their dispute, they may continue with the arbitration proceedings.
SIAC chair Lucien Wong, who is also a member of SIMC's board, described the new service as an "innovative product" that would enhance Singapore's attractiveness as a choice of venue for international users of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services.
"The SIAC-SIMC Arb-Med-Arb service ... has been designed to provide maximum value at minimum cost, efficiency coupled with flexibility and confidentiality combined with enforceability, all within an institutional framework and rules that incorporate global best practices," he said.
Mohan Pillay, of Pinsent Masons MPillay, the Singapore joint law venture partner of Pinsent Masons and immediate past president of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators, previously said that the creation of the SIMC and new commercial court would be "welcomed by the international business community".
"In today's global market, it's vital that businesses have efficient and reliable avenues to resolve their disputes in a neutral venue," he said. "For cross-border transactions, the neutrality and transparency of the process can be critical."