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12 July 2018
Foreign investors and partners clearly prefer out-of-court dispute resolution. However, owing to Macau's current arbitration regime and the difficulties that it poses, parties typically choose other jurisdictions to resolve disputes.
Therefore, the government has drafted a new arbitration bill which aims to:
The bill was approved in general by the Legislative Assembly on 6 June 2018.
Macau's dual arbitration system has two key laws:
However, the existence of two decree laws – which apply depending on whether the arbitration qualifies as an internal arbitration or as an external arbitration with a commercial scope – routinely causes conflict between parties. Further, as these laws present conflicting solutions, they are often interpreted and applied inconsistently.
Given that the legislation has been modified only once in the past 20 years, Macau's arbitration regime can be considered outdated.
Moreover, the scope of application of these laws is difficult to define. Generally, Decree-Law 55/98/M applies to arbitrations with a commercial nature (contractual or non-contractual) where:
On the other hand, Decree-Law 29/96/M applies to internal arbitrations (ie, arbitrations falling within the scope of Macau law).
Bearing in mind Macau's role in the commercial and trade cooperation service platform between China and Portuguese-speaking countries, it is essential for Macau to provide a simple arbitration regime that aligns with current international best practice and is easy to comprehend and apply.
Therefore, Decree-Laws 29/96/M and 55/98/M will be revoked when the new arbitration bill enters into force.
The new arbitration regime replaces the abovementioned laws with a single law, which will apply to both internal and external arbitrations in Macau.
The new law is inspired by the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration (as amended in 2006) and reflects some of the previous stipulations of Decree-Law 55/98/M, as well as some good solutions adopted in other jurisdictions which are compatible with the Macau legal system.
The new law establishes a legal regime of voluntary arbitrations and the recognition and enforcement of arbitration awards issued outside Macau (Article 1).
Further, the new regime is based on a number of principles, including:
In terms of its scope of application, the new law implements the principle of territoriality and generally applies only to arbitrations taking place in Macau (Article 2).
Unifying Macau's arbitration system with a single law is expected to improve legislative cohesion and application. Further, such improvements should encourage foreign investors and partners to choose Macau as their jurisdiction for submitting disputes and strengthen its arbitration credentials internationally – particularly in Portuguese-speaking countries.
For further information on this topic please contact Pedro Cortés or Madalena Perestrello at Rato, Ling, Lei & Cortés Advogados by telephone (+853 2856 2322) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). The Rato, Ling, Lei & Cortés Advogados website can be accessed at www.lektou.com.
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