Keynote Speech by Luke Goh, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Law, at SIAC Beijing Conference
10 May 2023 Posted in [Speeches]
Mr Yu Jianlong, Vice Chairman of the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT)
Ms Lucy Reed, President of the Court of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)
Ms Gloria Lim, CEO of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC)
Ladies and Gentlemen
1. A very good morning to all of you! It is a pleasure to be at the Beijing Conference of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre, that is organised with all of your support.
2. Arbitration has a long and rich history, with the crucial role of helping parties to resolve their disputes and achieve closure, so that they can move on with their projects and even their lives.
3. This goes back thousands of years to before 900BC, when we have documented stories of the wise King Solomon who famously conducted arbitrations.
4. The story is told of how King Solomon’s arbitration skills extended to resolving claims of ownership by two parties over a same baby child. He resolved it by, quite fairly, first offering to cut the baby in half, so each party could have 50:50. This would, of course, have greatly devalued what was precious about the child. One of the claimants nonetheless agreed, while the other, by offering to give up her claim and therefore saving the child’s life, proved her connection. We know how the rest of the story goes. With the baby’s parentage proven, King Solomon awarded custody to the real mother who had prioritised the child’s well-being.
5. I have no doubt that arbitrators in all the centuries since, continue to provide creative solutions to disputes and conflicts.
6. In today’s world, disputes are becoming more complex. This represents increased need, and also challenges, for arbitration.
First, with cross-border trade, arbitrators have to develop expertise in the laws of different jurisdictions, as well as sensitivity in cross-cultural communications.
Second, specialised rules have advanced to cater for different categories of disputes: investor-state disputes, intellectual property disputes, cases that arise in construction space, disputes in rapidly developing carbon markets and so on.
The advancement in technology has added another level of complexity to dispute resolution. The opportunity that technology brings to improving processes and analysis, and also new ethical considerations that may emerge.
7. In recent months, we have seen rapid developments in AI technology related to Large Language Models. ChatGPT is one such well-known model; China’s 通义千问 is another.
8. In fact, my colleague Angeline, who is also at the conference, put this question to ChatGPT: “Will AI replace lawyers, arbitrators, mediators and judges one day?” The answer:
Well, on the one hand, AI and language models such as ChatGPT have the potential to change the practice of law in the areas of:
a. Legal research: ChatGPT and other language models can search vast amounts of legal information, including statutes, case law and legal articles, within a short time. This can help lawyers save time, increase efficiency, and allow us to focus on higher-value tasks. b. Predictive analysis: The language models can help to analyse large volumes of legal information and data, identify relevant cases, provide suggestions for legal arguments, and even predict likely outcome of cases. c. Document automation: The language models can automate the drafting of legal documents, such as contracts and legal briefs.
On the other hand, ChatGPT’s answer provides the view that AI cannot replace our arbitrators, mediators or judges.
Its reasoning is that legal disputes often involve complex issues that require the judgment in assessing the credibility of witnesses, to understand the nuances of complex legal arguments, and to provide advice and guidance in a way the parties can understand both intellectually and intuitively.
Disputes, as with the case King Solomon had to deal with, involved emotional, personal and ethical elements that require empathy and sensitivity, which AI tools currently lack.
9. What I have just described, is ChatGPT’s self-assessment of its strengths and current limitations. The full potential of AI and Large Language Models remains to be seen.
10. Meanwhile, we are already seeing transformative technological developments, including in the legal and judicial services in China. I understand that in Suzhou, a court uses AI to examine evidence and write verdicts for disputes over traffic accidents. Another court in Hangzhou has deployed AI to take over simple financial disputes.
11. This Conference is an excellent opportunity to network with counterparts, legal experts from both China and Singapore, and to explore the opportunities and challenges we all face.
Acknowledgement of SIAC’s achievements
12. Once again, I thank SIAC for inviting me to this gathering. It is significant for me in several ways.
It is the first SIAC conference I am attending since joining Singapore’s Ministry of Law one month ago.
For some of us, it is also the first time that we are visiting China after Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted.
Today’s SIAC Beijing Conference is also the first in-person large conference that SIAC is organising in China, coming after the joint events that SIAC has previously co-organised with its partners in China.
13. It is an honour for me to meet and hear from top practitioners and international experts with us today, including renowned names:
Ms Lucy Reed, President of SIAC Court,
Mr Yu Jianlong, Vice President of CCPIT,
Mr Chen Fuyong, Deputy Secretary-General of the Beijing Arbitration Centre and Beijing International Arbitration Centre,
Ms Jessica Fei, Member of SIAC Court and International Partner at King & Wood Mallesons,
Mr Cao Lijun, Member of SIAC Court and Partner of Zhong Lun Law Firm,
and many others.
14. Two of the engagements that I attended in my first week in the Singapore Ministry of Law were also organised by the SIAC. They were the Annual Appreciation Event and the SIAC Visitors Programme. These events left a very deep impression.
15. I was struck by the trust that many businesses and top legal practitioners place in the international commercial dispute resolution services in Singapore, and in our dispute resolution institutions.
16. SIAC has a wealth of experience in managing many kinds of disputes from different jurisdictions. Its users came from more than 100 jurisdictions in the last 5 years. This speaks to the international recognition and draw of the SIAC. The cases are supported by a strong secretariat team who are qualified in more than 12 jurisdictions.
17. SIAC also recently reported the achievement that since the start of the year, scrutiny of arbitral awards has been kept to less than 3 weeks. So, clients not only get a quality outcome, but also a fast award.
18. The improvements are consistent with the latest International Arbitration Survey by the Queen Mary University of London and White & Case: SIAC is the most preferred arbitral institution in the Asia-Pacific and second globally.
19. As our international business environment undergoes changes and shifts, with pressures on supply chain amongst other challenges, we can expect arbitration needs to rise; and consequently, the need for sound, trusted and efficient arbitration platforms like SIAC.
Singapore-China Bilateral and Legal Relations
20. In today’s interconnected markets and global networks, it is no longer sufficient or effective for individual institutions to strive for success on our own. Transactions and businesses have become larger and more cross-border, often with high specialised needs. This makes collaboration with partners from other jurisdictions even more important, to form networks and help one another succeed.
21. This is true too at the national level, in our bilateral relations between Singapore and China, at the government-to-government level, business-to-business level, and people-to-people level.
22. And our bilateral relationship at these multiple levels has indeed become stronger and deeper over the years.
23. Singapore and China have progressed from working to help each other’s development, to working jointly with others.
24. We have progressed from collaboration in economic development, to sharing experiences in governance and social development. Our collaboration also includes legal and judicial cooperation.
25. We now have:
a sub-pillar on legal and judicial cooperation at the Joint Council for Bilateral Cooperation (JCBC);
the Legal and Judicial Roundtable between Singapore’s Supreme Court and China’s Supreme People’s Court;
the Legal Cooperation Council between Singapore’s Ministry of Law and China’s Ministry of Justice;
an annual conference on international commercial dispute resolution co-organised by Ministry of Law and the CCPIT;
a Joint Experts Team to explore the feasibility of developing a Joint Dispute Resolution Mechanism; and
many MOUs and partnerships that Singapore International Arbitration Centre, Singapore International Mediation Centre, Singapore International Commercial Court, Intellectual Property Office of Singapore and our Law Schools have embarked with their counterparts in China.
All these show the strength and closeness between us.
26. The fact that Singapore is a common law jurisdiction; while many of our neighbours including China and Indonesia are civil law jurisdictions – give us even more opportunities to work together.
27. For example:
our lawyers can package clients’ needs across jurisdictions, and start by understanding each other’s legal system through courses, study visits, and attachments, to build stronger networks.
academics and practitioners can study the commonalities and differences including the respective strengths between the common law and civil law systems, and identify ways to overcome challenges, such as ensuring enforceability across borders.
Perhaps, our experts could explore a joint dispute resolution mechanism that brings together the strengths of both systems, and propose rules and processes which are efficient and cost-effective, in supporting the region’s dispute resolution needs.
28. More broadly, we can expect demand for legal solutions to increase even further, as promising new growth areas develop. The trends and drivers are not new to us but are continuing to power on - in the digital economy, sustainability and the green economy, renewable energy, and so on. I hope the Conference allows us to explore these and other collaboration topics.
29. Please allow me to conclude with some remarks in Mandarin.
31. 2017年，法律与司法合作被列为新中合作的新发展 领域，为两国在这方面的更紧密合作铺路。
32. 上个月，新加坡总理李显龙对中国进行正式访问，两国借此机会发表 联合声明，将双边合作关系提升至“全方位高质量的前瞻性伙伴关系”。 这体现了两国对于继续扩展各方面的合作以及在新进领域如绿色和数字经济进行高质量合作的意愿。
34. 今年是“一带一路”10周年。期待我们两国能够持续扩大和深化高质量合作，维护开放、包容 的 世界经济，确保全球供应链的稳定畅通，推动互利互惠的合作。
35. 我希望我今天的演讲能达到 “抛砖引玉”的作用，促进新中两国的合作。 谢谢。
36. I wish everyone a fruitful conference.
Last updated on 10 May 2023