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Speech by Commissioner for Belt and Road at 4th International Forum on Belt and Road

Following is the speech by the Commissioner for Belt and Road, Miss Yvonne Choi, at "The 4th International Forum on the Belt and Road: Dispute Settlement Mechanisms", held by the International Academy of the Belt and Road today (October 11):

Vice President He (Vice President of the Supreme People's Court of the PRC, Ms He Rong); Professor Wang (President of the International Academy of the Belt and Road, Professor Wang Guiguo); Director General Wang (Director General of the Legal Department of the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR), Mr Wang Zhenmin); Dr Lee (Vice President of the International Academy of the Belt and Road, Dr Lee Yuk-lun), distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning.

First of all, I would like to congratulate the International Academy of the Belt and Road for completing this important study on dispute settlement mechanisms. I note that the Academy was founded in January this year. Within only 10 months, it has already organised four international fora and produced a Blue Book for dispute settlement in collaboration with over 40 experts from more than 30 countries. These are remarkable achievements. Today's topic is also of particular interest to me as I was actively involved in the World Trade Organization's negotiations on the Understanding on Rules and Procedures Governing the Settlement of Disputes. I look forward to learning more about the recommendations in the Blue Book. I would like to make a few general remarks for now.

The Belt and Road Initiative is open and inclusive. It aims to promote policy co-ordination, strengthen infrastructure connectivity, facilitate unimpeded trade and investment, deepen financial integration, and build people-to-people bonds. It is an open platform that facilitates co-operation among countries around the world.

The Initiative will bring about many business opportunities for participating countries for sure, but with new business transactions with unfamiliar partners come also risks of disputes, especially as the Belt and Road countries have very different cultures and systems. This therefore calls for suitable dispute mechanisms that are acceptable to the parties concerned.

As a leading centre for dispute resolution in the Asia-Pacific region, Hong Kong is well prepared to provide reliable and efficient support to international clients in handling a wide range of cases requiring sophisticated legal services. One unique advantage of Hong Kong is that under "one country, two systems" we maintain our own common law system, which is generally preferred by the international community in enforcing multi-jurisdictional contracts. And we have a strong legal infrastructure supported by the twin foundations of the rule of law and an independent judiciary.

The Government of the Hong Kong SAR is committed to developing and promoting Hong Kong as a leading centre for dispute resolution. The Department of Justice has made continuous efforts to improve our legal framework for speedy and effective resolution of disputes. These include the introduction of the Arbitration Ordinance in June 2011 and the enactment of the Mediation Ordinance in June 2012. Our Arbitration Ordinance is based on the latest version of the Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law, which is also familiar to the international business and arbitration communities. Arbitral awards made in Hong Kong are enforceable in over 150 jurisdictions which are contracting parties to the New York Convention. Arbitral awards made in Hong Kong can also be enforced in Mainland China and the Macau SAR through reciprocal arrangements with these jurisdictions.

The Judiciary has been promoting the use of alternative dispute resolution since the introduction of the Civil Justice Reform in 2009. Various options for settling disputes speedily and effectively are available in Hong Kong, with the support of our internationalised legal profession. We have over 10 000 local solicitors and barristers, and over 1 300 foreign lawyers from 30-odd jurisdictions, who are experienced in a wide range of multi-jurisdictional disputes and are well-equipped to handle civil and commercial cases for international clients.

Hong Kong's strategic location at the heart of Asia and in close proximity to the Mainland of China, together with our world-class infrastructure and facilities, also make Hong Kong an excellent choice of venue for international dispute resolution, particularly the resolution of Mainland-related disputes.

As an international financial, trade and shipping centre, Hong Kong's abundance of experienced professionals in different areas such as commerce, finance, information technology, shipping and construction, can also provide a full range of specialist services to clients in resolving commercial and contractual disputes.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Belt and Road Initiative is a long-term strategy that will bring about many development opportunities for all participating countries. Let's work together to capitalise on this visionary and bold initiative. As the Commissioner for Belt and Road appointed by the Chief Executive on August 1, I would welcome your views on how we can make good use of this Initiative. Finally, I wish today's forum to be a fruitful and productive one.

Thank you.

11.10.2016


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