Singapore to Become Southeast Asian Legal Hub with Opening of International Commercial Court

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SINGAPORE – Whilst currently most European and American firms take transnational cases back to their firm’s central office, the newly opened Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) wants to become the alternative location for arbitration in Asia. If it succeeds, Singapore could both reduce this costly, and common, practice as well as spur growth in its saturated domestic legal industry.

On January 5th, the Attorney-General’s Chambers celebrated the opening of the SICC. Alongside a series of other investments into its legal services sector and the establishment of the Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC), this institution is the keystone of Singapore’s campaign to become an international center for legal mediation. 

This year, as Singapore celebrates 50 years of independence from Malaysia, the government has been working hard to promote the impressive international achievements of this city-state. As the fourth largest financial center in the world and with an historically êntrepot economy, Singapore is now looking to the international legal industry to inject new growth into the country.

Singapore is uniquely positioned to capture the international legal market. Since the 1980s, English has been the first-language of most Singaporeans and, as well as retaining a loosely British legal framework, Singapore has been ranked the 7th least corrupt nation in the world – ahead of America, Hong Kong, and the United Kingdom.

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Singapore’s new Attorney-General, Viljaya Kumar Rajah S.C. has stressed that, “In fifty years, Singapore has managed to create a legal environment that is, and should be, the envy of the emerging economies of the world.” As well as praising Singapore’s domestic strengths, he repeatedly emphasized Singapore’s status a “Legal Services Hub”. Indeed, established 20 years ago, the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has been crucial in promoting international confidence in Singapore’s legal eco-system, which Rajah wishes to capitalize on.

There are already encouraging signs that Rajah’s hopes will come to fruition. The SICC should notably reduce the high legal costs of doing business in Asia and this potential has been recognized by the large number of law firms that travelled to Singapore for the new legal year in order to celebrate the opening of their new annexes.

If these firms commit to diverting international cases to their Singapore annexes, benefits will be felt amongst those in the legal trade and beyond, as well as reducing the legal costs for international companies in Asia and improving business conditions in the region.

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