Update from New Zealand: International Arbitration in the Region is Full Steam Ahead

2018 has started full steam ahead for international arbitration in the Asia-Pacific region. The Regional International Arbitration Conference, titled “The Dawn of International Arbitration in the South Pacific” was held in Fiji on 12 and 13 February, organised and supported by organisations including UNCITRAL, the Government of Fiji, and the Asian Development Bank. The focus for the conference was to discuss the growing importance of international arbitration in attracting foreign direct investment and enhancing international trade into the region.

We’ve also seen this week that New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has led a delegation to the region on a “Pacific Reset” tour. While the focus of the Prime Minister’s visit has been on climate change and recovery and resilience following the devastation of Cyclone Gita, as we are a member of the Pacific community, we will need (in her words) to consider how we can best “work with the region’s external partners to ensure that we are all contributing to a shared goal of a resilient, prosperous, secure Pacific”.  In this way, the development of international arbitration in the region can serve to develop trade links and prosperity in the region.

Capitalising on this forward momentum for the Asia-Pacific region, the New Zealand International Arbitration Centre (NZIAC) has as of February 2018, released a suite of new rules for arbitration and mediation here. The revised NZIAC rules have been updated to reflect some international developments, with provision for summary dismissals, urgent interim relief, joinder of parties and consolidation of arbitrations, and use of an arbitral secretary, as well as expedited procedures.

With the release of these new NZIAC Rules, and together with the release of revised AMINZ Rules last year, New Zealand is continuing to develop its position as a sound location for arbitration proceedings in the Asia-Pacific region. With the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on 8 March in Chile, New Zealand is well placed to take advantage of the changing position in the Asia-Pacific region, and any increase in international trade. Over time the CPTPP should eliminate 98 percent of tariffs in a marketplace worth close to $14 trillion, with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade estimating a $1.2 billion to $4 billion  boost to New Zealand's real GDP. The CPTPP continues to offer rights to foreign investors, including a means of settling legitimate disputes through investor-state arbitration, but the scope for such actions is now more limited. The signing of the CPTPP stands in stark contrast to threats of possible US tariffs and resulting fears for a trade war.

Forthcoming key events on the Australasian arbitration calendar include the ICCA 2018 Congress, and then the AMINZ-ICCA International Arbitration Day “Making Arbitration Work in a Changing World: a Pacific View”, held in April in Queenstown. We will be reporting on the key themes and topics emerging, so stay tuned!

About the authors

Fiona Tregonning is a general commercial litigation and arbitration lawyer in our Dispute Resolution team. She has a wealth of experience in working with clients to effectively resolve complex and international disputes across a range of industry sectors.

Katherine Belton is a senior solicitor in our dispute resolution team, with international experience in litigation and arbitration.

Other arbitration specialists in our national Dispute Resolution team include senior solicitors Daniel Fielding and Emma Peart.

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