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‘A truly global caseload’: ICC figures show arbitration growth in LatAm and Asia in record year

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has revealed record figures for new cases filed in 2016, with substantial increases in caseload for Latin America and South and East Asia.

Preliminary statistics indicate that a record total of 966 new cases were administered by the Court over the year, involving 3,099 parties from 137 countries. This is a 21% improvement on 2015’s 801 cases.

The statistics reveal a general growth in the number of arbitration cases with Latin America-based parties. This accounted for a 15% increase, with Brazil climbing to third place in party rankings worldwide and Mexico breaching the top five for the first time.

There was also unprecedented progress in Asia and Africa. South and East Asia both saw an increase of 22% in party representation, with a record 82 parties from Korea.

North and Sub-Saharan Africa both saw a 50% increase in the number of participating parties.

According to the ICC, the figures ‘reflect continuing growth of the world’s leading arbitral institution and its ongoing efforts to make ICC dispute resolution services more accessible worldwide.’

ICC president Alex Mourre said: ‘These initial findings are welcome testament to our efforts to continually adapt our services to the needs of arbitration users around the world.

He added: ‘These efforts will continue in 2017 with plans to build further on our global presence in the year ahead.’

Mishcon de Reya head of arbitration Karel Daele attributed the growth to a universal spike in demand: ‘The increasing numbers are indeed testament to the good work that the ICC is doing and its global reach. However, this growth is not unique to the ICC.

‘All major institutions, in various parts of the world, register an increasing number of cases year after year. All of these institutions continue to improve and modernize their rules so as to better serve the international business community and it appears that this work pays off.’

Stephen Jagusch, global chair of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan’s international arbitration practice, added: ‘I’m not surprised by the figures. Indeed I suspect that the figures for the other leading arbitration institutions will also show increased case load.

‘I’m even less surprised that the ICC in particular will be seeing growth in geographies and jurisdictions where arbitration has traditionally been less popular because the ICC does a great job in marketing its services to businesses in those areas.

‘What we’re seeing is the ICC reaping the benefits of its global outreach and educational programmes.’

Herbert Smith Freehills arbitration head Craig Tevendale added: ‘These are important stats for the ICC and an important advance. The reality is that the statistics from the last six years are more or less stable. To go from 801 to 966 is an appreciable growth. The ICC have every cause to be pleased with that.

Tevendale (pictured) added: ‘One of the virtues of the ICC is that they have a truly global caseload in terms of the origin of cases and the jurisdictions. The Latin America numbers recognise an increasing awareness of arbitration and a greater level of trust against some of the dispute resolution alternatives. That is a trend to be welcomed by any arbitrator.’

Last year the lord chief justice of England and Wales said English law took ‘a wrong turning’ in favouring international arbitration to resolve commercial dispute.

Lord Thomas said ‘the time is right to look again at the balance’ between disputes heard in private international arbitrations compared to public court proceedings, and argued that the rise of international arbitration is ‘a serious impediment to the development of the common law’.

Read more on arbitration in: ‘Everything must go – the London arbitration price war’