Mon, Sep 14, 2020 – 2:50 PM

THE Singapore International Mediation Centre (SIMC) and Japan International Mediation Center (JIMC) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to operate a joint protocol providing expedited mediation amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The JIMC-SIMC Joint Protocol provides cross-border businesses, including companies along the Singapore-Japan corridor, with an “economical, expedited and effective” route for resolving commercial disputes, SIMC said in a press statement on Sunday.

It is SIMC’s first such collaboration with an overseas mediation centre, following the launch of the SIMC Covid-19 Protocol in May.

SIMC noted that the pandemic has disrupted the performance of contractual obligations, supply chains and other aspects of commerce, resulting in differences and disputes between businesses around the world.

JIMC secretary general Kazuhiko Nishihara said the joint protocol aims to resolve disputes online within one to two months.

Under the joint protocol, JIMC and SIMC will manage mediations, which can be filed online with either centre by paying a S$250 or 20,000 yen filing fee, SIMC said. Mediation can be conducted online to overcome current limitations on travel.

Cases will be resolved by two experienced mediators, one nominated by each centre, to facilitate cross-border settlement.

With the coming into force of the Singapore Convention on Mediation on Sept 12, settlement agreements may be enforced in jurisdictions that have ratified or approved the Convention, including Singapore, SIMC added.

It said parties can enjoy fixed and reduced fees adapted for the Japanese market. For example, each party pays fees of S$6,500 for disputes involving less than S$1.3 million.

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SIMC said that the joint protocol was designed in consultation with stakeholders from JIMC and the Japan Association of Arbitrators, “to ensure the successful settlement of disputes, which may be marked by physical, cultural and language barriers”.

In a mediation between a Japanese and non-Japanese party, the co-mediation aspect allows for the appointment of mediators who are familiar with different legal and cultural contexts, it added.

Mediators may be Japanese-speaking and international mediators selected from both centres’ established panels of mediators, with skillsets to address any given dispute.

SIMC chief executive Chuan Wee Meng said the joint protocol is expected to draw “deep interest” from users who do business in Japan. He added that SIMC welcomes similar collaborations with other partners in the region.

JIMC’s Mr Nishihara added that many Japanese companies focus on resolving disputes through negotiations, and only litigate or arbitrate when their efforts are not rewarded. However, the participation of highly skilled neutral mediators in such negotiations often reveals a path to a solution that was not apparent during the pre-mediation negotiation process, he added.

The joint protocol is expected to be formally launched later this year at an event marking JIMC’s second-year anniversary on Nov 20.



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