Dispute Avoidance And Management In Belt And Road Projects (Bilingual English/Chinese)

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Lecture presented on 15 June 2018 at the International Symposium On International Commercial Arbitration Service organised by the International Commercial Arbitration Service Center of the National Kunming Economic And Technological Development Zone, Yunnan, People’s Republic Of China. 

First of all, let me thank the organizers for organising an excellent seminar and panel of very high quality eminent experts and academics on the theme of “International Commercial Arbitration under the Belt And Road Initiative”.

I had originally planned to speak on “International Mediation In Belt And Road Projects”. As the previous speakers have done an excellent job and covered the subject so well, and in view of the limited time available, I will focus on the dispute avoidance and management part of my presentation.

I will begin with a story, and then cover three main points.

China’s Belt And Road Initiative is the biggest and most important infrastructure development in the world today. Last November, I spoke at a conference in Shenzhen on how to assist Chinese companies to venture abroad successfully. One of the sessions was on the “Go Out” experiences of four (4) Chinese companies. Among them, two (2) had various disputes, the remaining two (2) had no disputes. Those with no disputes had hired PWC, EY and other professional advisers such as law firms to assist them in implementing their “Go Out” plans.

Based on their differing experiences, I concluded that those with no disputes had prepared their “Go Out” plans well. So adequate preparation by Chinese enterprises before they venture out to invest and do business overseas is critical and is the master key to the success of Chinese “Go Out” companies. Those who prepare well will have few or no disputes.

The first main point that I wish to make on dispute avoidance and management is that the parties to a dispute know best how to solve the dispute.

Economist Marc Galanter in 1981 explained the theory of “Legal Realism” as follows:

“Most disputes including many that under current rules could be brought to a court, are resolved through self avoidance, self-help, and the like…. in many instances the participants can devise more satisfactory solutions to their disputes than can professionals constrained to apply general rules on the basis of limited knowledge of the dispute”

According to Galanter, and also consistent with my observations of legal disputes in my 33 years of legal practice in South East Asia, the parties themselves are best equipped to resolve disputes.

Lawyers, mediators, arbitrators and judges are of necessity third parties with limited knowledge of the disputes and constrained to apply general rules. Most disputes are resolved by parties through self help and avoidance.

My second point is that Belt And Road Projects are international win-win economic and business activities. If there is no dispute (i.e no arbitration or litigation), the Belt And Road project is a big success. For the parties and also lawyers who advised on and structured the Belt And Road Project, any dispute is a sign of failure.

In other words, dispute resolution services such as arbitration and litigation services are “funeral” services for which the lawyers and experts earn an “undertakers burial fee”. For disputes to be referred to arbitration or litigation, it will mean that the relationships between the parties have failed beyond repair and the Belt And Road Project will end up in failure. It is not in the interest of the parties to have disputes. We must avoid and keep disputes to a minimum.

The third and final point I wish to make is that Belt And Road disputes are different from purely commercial disputes and domestic arbitrations in the following ways:

  1. Intergovernmental Relations:
    Often, the projects are government sponsored, and any dispute will affect intergovernmental relations between China and the host country. In such situations, the intergovernmental relationship will be bigger and more important than the project itself, and diplomatic resolutions and mediation will be the preferred solution.
  2. Cross border Legal Issues:
    Belt And Road Projects are cross border projects involving the laws of two or more countries. Choice of governing law of contracts, choice of court jurisdiction, enforcement of judgements and arbitral awards, differences in legal traditions such as common law versus civil law systems, Bilateral Investment Treaties and the referral of disputes to the International Centre For Settlement of Investment Disputes (“ICSID”) are difficult issues that must be resolved.
  3. Cross Cultural Issues: As the projects are cross border in nature, parties with different backgrounds and from multiple religions, languages and cultures make the management of successful projects and the resolution of any dispute much harder.
  4. Social media impact and public opinion:
    Belt And Road Projects are sometimes sensitive and not well received in host countries. Those who oppose the projects will use social media and influence public opinion when the projects fail and end up in disputes. So any potential failure or dispute needs careful management to avoid harm to intergovernmental relations.

In conclusion, Chinese “Go Out” enterprises must prepare well to avoid disputes. If disputes cannot be avoided or settled between the parties, then international mediation is the way to resolve them to avoid harming the relationships between the parties. The Belt And Road Initiative is a paradox – the fewer the disputes, the more successful the projects. Let us help the parties in Belt And Road Projects achieve great success in their projects by avoiding and keeping disputes to a minimum.

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一带一路倡议中争端的避免与管控

梁柏林律师

马来西亚梁潘黄律师事务所高级合伙人

新加坡 Just Law律师事务所顾问

亚太法律联合会一带一路常务委员会联合主席

首先,我要感谢大会组织者召集了许多著名的优秀的专家学者来参与会议,共同探讨一带一路倡议下的国际商事仲裁的相关问题。

原本打算演讲的题目是一带一路下的国际商事调解制度。但由于前面这位发言人的把这个问题说的十分通透,深入显出,也由于时间关系,所以我将把我的发言重点放在一带一路倡议下争端避免以及管控上。我将从一个故事开始介绍,然后涵盖三个要点。

中国的一带一路倡议是当今世界上最大规模的,也是最重要的基础设施建设项目。去年十一月,我曾在深圳召开的一个会议上做了一个关于如何帮助中国的公司在国外成功展开商业活动的主题发言。其中一个部分就是关于四家中国公司走出去的经历。其中两家公司存在各种纠纷,另外两家没有。因为没有纠纷的两家公司雇佣了普华永道、安永和其他律师事务所的专业顾问来帮助他们实施走出去的战略。

基于他们不同的经历,我得出结论认为那些不存在纠纷的公司为他们自身走出去的战略做了良好的准备。在中国公司去海外开展业务进行投资和商业活动之前,充分的准备是至关重要的,它也是中国公司走出去成功的核心。事前进行充分准备的公司将可以减少纠纷数量,甚至没有纠纷。

我所讲避免争端和管控方面的第一个要点是争端的当事方才是最了解如何解决争端的主体。

首先, 1981经济学家Marc Galanter提出的法律现实主义的理论讲到:

大多数争,包括许多根据现行规则可能会被提交到法庭的争,通过自我规避,自助等方式得以解决…… 在许多的情况下,相比法律专业人士基于对争有限了解而局限于适用一般规则加以解决当事方往往可以为他们的争制定出一个令人更为满意的解决方案。

根据Galanter的说法,并且结合我在东南亚33法律从业经历中对法律纠纷的认识,最有能力解决纠纷的的确是处于纠纷的双方

律师,调解员,仲裁员和法官都是必要的第三方,但他们对争的了解有限也只能适用一般规则。所以大多数纠纷都是通过双方的自助和自我规避来解决的

我的第二点是,一带一路倡议一项实现双赢的国际经济和商业活动。 如果没有争(即不需要仲裁或诉讼),那么一带一路倡议是一个巨大的成功。 对于为一带一路倡议提供建议和架构的各方以及律师,任何纠纷的出现都是其工作失职表现.

换句话说,提供仲裁和诉讼服务等争端解决服务其实一项丧葬服务,律师和专家们赚取的是殡仪员的酬劳。因为将争提交仲裁或诉讼,这将意味着双方之间的关系已经破裂,并且一带一路倡议最终将失败告终。这不符合双方的利益,所以我们必须避免并将争保持在最低限度

我的第三点也是最后一点是, 一带一路倡议中的纠纷与纯商业纠纷和国内仲裁不同在于:

1.  政府间关系

通常,一带一路倡议涉及的项目是由政府资助的,因此出现的任何争端都将会影响中国和东道国之间的政府关系。在这样的情况下,政府间关系将比项目本身更加重要,所以外交决议和调解将是首选的解决方案。

2. 跨国法律问题

一带一路倡议会涉及大量的跨国工程,这将涉及两个或两个以上国家的法律。选择合同适用哪国的法律,选择哪国的法院有司法管辖权,判决或者仲裁裁决的执行,法律传统的差异例如普通法系和大陆法系,双边投资协定和向国际投资争端解决中心(ICSID)提交争端申请,上述事项都是要必须解决的难题。

3.跨国文化差异

由于工程本身具有跨国性质,参与各方也来自不同背景,宗教,语言和文化的国家、地区。因此成功的管理好工程并解决所有争端将会变得更加困难。

4. 社交媒体的影响和公众意见

一带一路倡议的项目有时涉及敏感问题,在东道国也没有被很好接纳。当工程失败并最终陷入争端时,那些反对者将会利用社交媒体和公众意见施加影响。因此,任何潜在的、可能造成项目失败或陷入纠纷的问题都需要审慎管理以避免损害政府间关系。

总而言之,中国走出去的企业必须要做好万全的准备来避免争端发生。若各方不能规避或者解决争端,那么运用国际协商来解决争端可有效避免损害各方间的关系。一带一路倡议中有个潜在的矛盾在实现更多的成功工程的同时,要尽量减少争端的出现。让我们携手帮助一带一路倡议中的工程各方在项目中取得辉煌成功,规避并将争端最小化。

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