The International Court of Arbitration (ICA) wants to resolve disputes arising from China’s multi-billion-dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), claiming that it is the only arbitration institution that is ‘truly global’.

ICA president Alexis Mourre said parties will require a neutral venue when resolving disputes. He said the court would not create any perceived problems with neutrality, adding: ‘The court is not Asian, not European, it’s global.’ 

His comments will be seen as a shot across the bows of other forums hoping to cash in on arbitration disputes. Several arbitration centres, including the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center (HKAIC), as well as centres in Singapore and England and Wales, are marketing themselves as the ‘go-to’ place for international dispute resolution.

England and Wales in particular has ramped up its courting of other jurisdictions with the Ministry of Justice’s Legal Services are GREAT campaign. The campaign’s aim is to forge legal links with emerging jurisdictions as Brexit approaches, and to market England and Wales as the ’world’s pre-eminent legal centre’.

The ICA, part of the International Chamber of Commerce, is headquartered in Paris. Mourre was speaking at an event during last week’s Hong Kong International Arbitration Week: ’’Belt and Road: Financing and other issues’.

The BRI is a development strategy proposed by China’s president Xi Jinping that aims to improve connectivity and cooperation between Eurasian countries. The discussion focused on the types of dispute that may arise from the project and the best forums for resolving them.

The discussion earlier heard that a lack of uniformity over which countries were actually involved in the BRI scheme – currently around 60 – had created a ’dispute resolution vacuum’.

China has established its own China International Commercial Court (CICC) to deal with such disputes, with branches in Xian (for hearing land-related disputes) and Shenzhen (maritime disputes).

However, there is ‘some scepticism out there’, the event heard. Although a panel of experts, consisting of foreign-qualified legal experts, can give advice to judges the decision-makers themselves will be Chinese judges.

Former justice secretary Rimsky Yuen said China’s ministry of commerce is deciding whether there should be a standard form of contract for BRI-related projects.