Georgia Signs Convention on Trade Dispute Mediation

The Singapore Convention on Mediation was signed on Wednesday, August 7, by 46 UN Member States, Georgia among them. Major players in international trade also signed on to the agreement, including the United States, China, India, Turkey, and South Korea. Georgia was represented at the signing by Minister of Justice Thea Tsulukiani.

Officially called the UN Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, the convention is designed to ease the settlement process for cross-border commercial and trade-related disputes. Such conventions regulate international trade structures and help maintain the relationships that keep modern globalized economies moving.

After the signing, the Ministry of Justice of Georgia released a statement saying “Georgia is one of the first countries that joined the convention. By joining the convention, Georgia took one step closer to the goal of becoming the regional hub for mediation.” Vying for that honor is Singapore itself, and, with its name attached to the convention as the place of its signing, the tiny city-state has a leg up.

During the signing ceremony, Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced, “This will help advance international trade, commerce and, a group of states have come together to recommit ourselves to multilateralism and to declare that we remain open for business.”

UN Legal Affairs Assistant Secretary-General Stephen Mathias commented, “Uncertainty surrounding the enforcement of settlement agreements had been the main obstacle of the greater use of mediation...The convention sets the standards for enforcing and invoking settlement agreements, the requirements for reliance on settlement agreements and the grounds for refusing to grant relief.”

Mediation is a common method for settling commercial disputes in the United States and the United Kingdom, but in other parts of the world it faces questions of legal grey areas, credibility, and public skepticism.

Georgia has recently increased its focus on mediation at the national level, with the support of UNDP and European Union programs. In March of this year, the Georgian government submitted a draft law on mediation to Parliament, which calls for the creation of an alternative agency of dispute settlement – a Mediation Institute.

As the Ministry of Justice, who wrote the draft law, explained at the time of its submission, the current judicial system is overloaded with civil disputes, leading to delays and backups in the system which hinder the swift administration of justice.

“A thoroughly prepared, impartial third party in the mediation process helps citizens and business representatives to resolve civil disputes without long-term and expensive judicial processes, in a mutually agreed manner,” the explanatory note of the draft law reads.

If adopted, as it is expected to be, the law will apply to disputes in various sectors, including businesses, banking, labor, and loans. Although in March, Tsulukiani did note that there is a lack of trained, qualified mediators in the country, and expressed hope that the new law on mediation would support the growth of the profession.

The aim of the Singapore Convention on Mediation is the same as Georgia’s domestic draft law – to create an international framework to empower and support businesses to settle international disputes outside of a courtroom, through mediation, which will save significant time and money.

By Samantha Guthrie

Image source: Ministry of Justice

08 August 2019 18:51