East Asia viewed from space with atmosphere and clouds. Elements of this image furnished by NASA.

Recent developments in the ASEAN region point towards renewed efforts towards greater harmonization between different regimes in ASEAN. ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) had previously announced its goal of regional economic integration by 2015 and in the past two years, several consistent initiatives have been publicly announced, including the establishment of the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC) and Singapore International Mediation Centre offering a platform for the resolution of cross-jurisdictional disputes.

Against this backdrop, consideration of the adoption of the CISG (the UNCITRAL Convention on the International Sale of Goods) has received a “second wind” in Asia. At the UNCITRAL-Singapore Seminar entitled “35 years of the CISG:Achievements and Perspectives” held in Singapore last week on 23-24 April 2015, speakers from some of the relevant ministries in the ASEAN countries made their cases on why their respective countries should adopt the CISG in order to harmonize the law relating to international sales of goods in ASEAN. This included countries such as Brunei, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Phillippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

Although harmonization of laws in the region could still take years in the making, the possible adoption of the CISG in the various ASEAN countries in future could assist the growth of arbitration.

For example, in-house counsel could pair the benefits of a harmonized law on the international sales of goods (namely, the adoption of the CISG) together with the enforcement advantages offered by arbitration as many of the ASEAN countries have also ratified the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards. This would be particularly useful for standard form contracts intended for sale of goods in the region.

The recognition of the various ASEAN governments of the importance of achieving a harmonization of regional laws, at least with respect to commercial issues, is a heartening development.  While we could also see the growth of institutions like the SICC which would support the ongoing efforts toward economic integration and harmonization, arbitration could also play an important support role as it is an established dispute resolution mechanism in the region.