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U.N. members sign mediation convention to settle trade disputes

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By Fathin Ungku

SINGAPORE (Reuters) – Members of the United Nations on Wednesday signed the Singapore Convention on Mediation, an agreement it hopes will make it easier to settle cross-border commercial disputes and stabilise trade relationships.

The U.N. Convention on International Settlement Agreements Resulting from Mediation, its official title, was signed in Singapore by 46 U.N. members, including the United States and China. U.N. conventions are often named after the country or city where they are signed.

The aim is to have a global framework that will give businesses greater confidence to settle international disputes through mediation rather than taking them to court, which can be obstructively time consuming and expensive.

“This will help advance international trade, commerce and investment,” said Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the signing ceremony.

“Today, a group of states have come together to recommit ourselves to multilateralism and to declare that we remain open for business.”

Mediation is already used to settle commercial disputes in jurisdictions like the United States and the United Kingdom but it is not globally accepted. It is hoped the convention will improve the credibility of mediation.

“Uncertainty surrounding the enforcement of settlement agreements had been the main obstacle of the greater use of mediation,” said UN Legal Affairs Assistant Secretary-General, Stephen Mathias.

“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.”

The naming of the convention is a coup for tiny Singapore, a city-state home to more than 130 foreign law firms that is vying to be an international legal hub as the number of commercial cross-border disputes rise.

(Reporting by Fathin Ungku; Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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