New Arbitration Rules in China
Several much-needed revisions to the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission(“CIETAC”) Arbitration Rules came into effect this month, giving CIETAC and CIETAC arbitrators more of the powers already held by such institutions as the International Chamber of Commerce, the London Court of International Arbitration, and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre. These revisions are especially welcome because in the People’s Republic of China (“PRC”) enforcement of foreign judgments is highly restricted. This post highlights the key changes.
Interim Measures An arbitral tribunal may now grant interim measures, and also appropriate security. The new rule does not specify the scope of interim measures, but they might include orders to restrain infringement of a patent. It does not include conservatory measures (e.g. orders to protect evidence). As before, a party seeking conservatory measures submits a request to CEITAC, which then forwards the request to a PRC court.
Unfortunately, the tribunal does not have power to enforce its interim measures, nor do the courts of the PRC. However, the PRC is currently revising its Civil Procedure Law, and so there is some prospect that the courts will gain such enforcement powers.
Conciliation One new rule provides new safeguards of natural justice for parties in situations where, as often happens in the PRC, conciliation occurs during the arbitration process. Up until now, the arbitral tribunal itself would conduct the conciliation. Parties were concerned that, in the event the conciliation failed and arbitration resumed, the tribunal when making its award might consider information disclosed off the record in the course of the conciliation. As well, information that one party has provided to the tribunal in a private conciliation meeting might not be disclosed to the other side. The new rule gives the parties the option to have CIETAC, instead of the tribunal, undertake the conciliation.
Summary Procedure The fast-track, three-month summary procedure is now available for cases up to RMB2,000,000 (about US$316,000), up from the old limit of RMB500,000.
Evidence The rules now permit parties to use oral evidence as well as documentary evidence. Traditionally, mainly documentary evidence is used in arbitrations in the PRC.
Selection of Arbitrator Parties are no longer required to select their arbitrator(s) from the CEITAC Registry of arbitrators. Also, the rules now provide guidance to the CEITAC in situations where it appoints the arbitrator: CEITAC must consider the applicable law for the arbitration, the place and language of the arbitration, and the nationalities of the parties. However, there is no requirement that arbitrators be of different nationalities, as some had hoped. No longer can an arbitrator unilaterally withdraw; he/she must seek leave to withdraw from CEITAC.
Selection of Place and Language In the absence of an agreement between the parties, CEITAC now has power to designate the language of the arbitration, which need not be Chinese, and the location of the arbitration, which need not be in the PRC.
Consolidation CEITAC now has power to consolidate two or more arbitrations, if both sides agree.