International Arbitration : Arbitration Agreements and the writing requirement

University essay from Högskolan i Jönköping/IHH, Rättsvetenskap; Högskolan i Jönköping/IHH, Rättsvetenskap



As international trade is constantly increasing, the number of disputes between international parties is greater than ever. In view of the fact that it is difficult to get court judgments recognized and enforced, arbitration has gained a great foothold in international commercial disputes. The leading international legal framework for recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards is the New York Convention of 1958 with 142 Member States as of today. It simplifies recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards in foreign countries. Nevertheless, certain criterions are required to be fulfilled and a much-debated criterion is the writing requirement for arbitration agreements.

The writing requirement is found in Article II(2) of the New York Convention and it stipulates that an arbitration clause or an arbitration agreement must be signed by the parties or contained in an exchange of letters or telegrams to constitute a valid arbitration agreement, which is the foundation of a recognizable and enforceable arbitral award. The requirement in itself is clear, but the development of electronic communication and the fact that national courts interpret the writing requirement differently, leads to dissimilar requirements in various countries. Moreover, numerous new ways of how to conclude contracts have been established during the 50 years that has passed since the adoption of the New York Convention and the ever increasing number of disputes has questioned the function of the writing requirement. The UNCITRAL has, by adopting a model law, tried to accomplish a uniform interpretation and establish what it takes to fulfill the writing requirement. The starting point for the work of the UNCITRAL was to modify national arbitration legislation and thus reach the objective of harmonizing the writing requirement.

The thesis undertakes an international outlook in three countries, Australia, Italy and Sweden. These countries are all Member States of the New York Convention but there are great differences in their legislation. Sweden imposes no writing requirement and Italy has applied a very restrictive interpretation. Australia has incorporated the UNCITRAL Model Law. The international outlook illustrates how the interpretation depends on national arbitration legislation and attitude towards the writing requirement.

An analysis of the current general legal context shows a weakening threshold for fulfillment of the writing requirement. It is also evident that the writing requirement is not in line with how international trade is practiced today. The writing requirement frequently constitutes a formalistic problem regarding conclusion of contracts, as it comprise a requirement with-out function. In addition to this, the attempts of the UN have failed to eliminate uncer-tainty and the divergence in interpretation. To reach a uniform interpretation, an immense overhaul of the New York Convention is needed, alternatively that additional States adhere to the UNCITRAL Model Law and thus eliminate the national differences of today.

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