The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is moving into global arbitration as it looks to add another speciality to its stable of businesses. The centre, a Government-owned financial free zone, announced a new arbitration law yesterday allowing for dispute resolution on a local and international level, which opens the door for the centre's expansion.
"It's a big deal," said Alec Emmerson, a consultant with the law firm Clyde & Co, which reviewed the law's drafting. "The new law makes the DIFC a convenient place for parties that are in dispute to come to, as it is open to local, regional and international disputes." Although the DIFC court was previously open to cases affiliated only with companies registered with the DIFC, the new arbitration law creates a venue open to parties regardless of their status with the DIFC and will allow them to resolve disputes with private judges under a system that mirrors the English courts, Mr Emmerson said.
The law is intended to widen the array of disputes that the DIFC court can handle, as well as to take advantage of Dubai's position as a bridge between the West and Asia, he said. "We are confident that the new arbitration law... will ensure that local, regional and global companies have a cost-effective alternative to expensive, laborious dispute settlements done traditionally through courts," said Omar bin Sulaiman, the DIFC's governor.
The original arbitration law, created in 2004 when the DIFC was set up, was revoked and replaced with the new law. "There is a demand, undoubtedly both in the regional business and legal communities, for an open arbitration structure such as is defined by this law," Mr Emmerson said. "It emphasises the region as a halfway house that's geographically convenient with a familiar legal system in place."