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Geographical remoteness has not prevented Australia from pursuing a persistent ambition to become a major hub for international commercial arbitration (ICA). While regional competitors in the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore and Hong Kong have already achieved great success in the arbitration world, Australia’s ‘Tyranny of Distance’1 requires that extra efforts be made to attract ICA cases. Recent marketing from Austrade within the Australian government2 emphasises the relative strengths of ICA in Australia: (1) a harmonised legal framework for ICA in line with international standards, (2) sophisticated arbitration institutions and (3) some of the world’s leading arbitration practitioners.
Arbitration is prized as a cost-effective, confidential dispute resolution process, where the parties have considerable autonomy in deciding how the procedure should take place. On the international level, compared to litigation, it has the additional benefit of being easily enforceable in states that are members of the New York Convention.
This chapter acts as a capstone to Part IV’s presentation of country reports. It presents the findings of a comparative analysis of arbitration laws in the different countries reported. This analysis focuses on the different issues presented in Parts I–III, including scope and interpretation of arbitration clauses, anti-arbitration laws and policies, arbitrator bias and misconduct, the public policy exception, and other limits on arbitrability. Thus, the country reports are reviewed here to determine areas of commonality and divergences across national laws relating to judicial intervention into the arbitration process. It will also assess possible trends in international commercial arbitration.
Bulgaria has traditionally been an arbitration-friendly jurisdiction, both for domestic and international disputes.1 Arbitration as a means of dispute resolution was first implemented in Bulgaria at the end of the nineteenth century with the first Civil Procedure Act (1892). At this time arbitration was used mainly to solve commercial disputes between merchants with the assistance of local and national chambers of commerce. In the first half of the twentieth century, arbitration was widely used to resolve both civil and commercial cases, and the arbitrators had extensive powers, including resolving disputes ex aequo et bono. Also during this period, the first reported international commercial arbitration proceedings involving Bulgarian parties occurred, mainly in the international trade and infrastructure construction sectors. Throughout the socialist period (1944–1989), arbitration was allowed only in respect of legal disputes between Bulgarian socialist organisations (i.e., state-owned entities engaged in industry and trade, such as industrial plants, foreign trade enterprises, tourist companies, state-owned banks, etc.) and foreign enterprises or entities, and it was the privileged dispute resolution mechanism for such disputes. The existence of this sort of arbitration allowed Bulgarian practitioners to conserve and develop their knowledge in the field during the socialist period. In particular, the Arbitration Court at the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry allowed some prominent scholars and practitioners to regularly engage in domestic and international arbitration proceedings and to develop, as a follow up, domestic legislation and academic materials on the topic.
The popular image of the American legal system is that it is run amok with litigation-happy disputants. Whether this is true from an empirical perspective is debatable, but in fact American federal law and policy favors arbitration as the country’s preferred means of dispute resolution. This is a longstanding position dating back to the enactment of the 1925 Federal Arbitration Act (FAA). However, the history of this Act and its implementation has been inconsistent. It was forgotten at one point as individual American states enacted statutes to limit the use of mandatory arbitration in consumer contracts. Eventually, the US Supreme Court recognized the FAA as prevailing law and voided state laws limiting the use of arbitration under the federal preemption doctrine.1 In more recent times, the US Supreme Court expanded the scope of private arbitration clauses to include statutory claims, such as in the areas of antitrust, collective bargaining, and civil rights. Even more recently, it has begun to limit the availability of arbitration by placing restrictions on class action arbitration.
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