International Commercial Arbitration in Japan and Australia: Addressing Australia's "Legislative Black Hole" and Comparing Caselaw
Profs Tatsuya Nakamura, J Romesh Weeramantry and myself will present a public seminar at JCAA in Tokyo on 20 July to compare recent developments in jurisdictions that have based their arbitration legislation on the UNCITRAL Model Law (respectively: Japan, Hong Kong and Australia). Below are details of a follow-up seminar on 13 September in Sydney organised by Sydney Law School and hosted by Clifford Chance, where Prof Nakamura will be the main speaker.
Prof Nakamura and I will also participate on 12 September in Brisbane in an interactive AFIA (Australasian Forum for International Arbitration) symposium hosted by Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
These events are part of our joint research project, "Fostering a Common Culture in Cross-Border Dispute Resolution: Australia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific", supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Background materials for these three events include:
1. Nakamura, Tatsuya and Nottage, Luke R., Arbitration in Japan (May, 30 2012). ARBITRATION IN ASIA, T. Ginsburg & S. Ali, eds., Juris: NY, Fothcoming; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/39. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2070447
2. Garnett, Richard and Nottage, Luke R., What Law (If Any) Now Applies to International Commercial Arbitration in Australia? (May 2012). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/36. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2063271
The latter identifies the following serious and growing legislative lacuna that has emerged since Australia revised its framework for international arbitration from 2010:
The amendments to the International Arbitration Act 1974 (Cth) (‘IAA’) enacted on 6 July 2010 aimed to reposition Australia as a leading Asia-Pacific venue for international commercial arbitration. They also aimed to streamline and revitalise domestic arbitration by providing the new template for reforms to the uniform Commercial Arbitration Act (‘CAA’) regime, originally enacted in the mid-1980s based on a more interventionist English law tradition.
Yet the IAA amendments did not clearly indicate whether some were intended to apply to (a) international arbitration agreements, (b) specifying the seat of the arbitration to be in Australia, (c) concluded before 6 July 2010, especially if (d) the parties had expressly or impliedly excluded the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration pursuant to the original s21 of the IAA. The present authors had suggested that these amendments, especially s 21 which no longer allows such an exclusion, were not intended or presumed to have retrospective effect. The Western Australian Court of Appeal recently agreed, unlike a Federal Court Judge at first instance, although in obiter dicta in both cases.
This article restates the problems created by the IAA amendments (Part II), analyses Australian case law decided since 6 July 2010 (Part III), and then proposes a way forward – including comparisons with other Asia-Pacific jurisdictions that have recently enacted arbitration law reforms, especially Singapore and Hong Kong (Part IV). It recommends prompt further IAA amendments that: (i) clarify that at least the new s 21 does not have retrospective effect, (ii) limit a persistent tendency among some Australian courts to infer that a selection of arbitration rules amounts to an implied exclusion of the Model Law under the old s 21, and (iii) consider several other reforms addressing other issues left unclear or not covered in the IAA as amended in 2010.
The article also urges reforms to the new uniform CAA regime (including CAA legislation already enacted in NSW, Victoria and South Australia) that ‘save’ old international arbitration agreements satisfying conditions (a)-(d) above. The old CAA legislation, or at least the new CAA regime, should clearly apply to such agreements - otherwise they will fall into a ‘legislative black hole’. That problem arises because states are enacting the new CAAs to apply only to ‘domestic’ arbitration agreements, while simply repealing the old CAAs (which applied also to international arbitration agreements, especially if the parties had agreed to exclude the Model Law as permitted by the old s 21 of the IAA).