The 2015 CIETAC Arbitration Rules and the Guidelines on Evidence

Following the actual trend of revising arbitration rules, the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), one of the major permanent arbitration institutions, has launched two major innovations in 2015:

  • New Arbitration Rules, passed by the Chairmen’s meeting on 26 September 2014 and adopted by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade/China Chamber of International Commerce on 4 November 2014, entered into force on 1 January 2015 (1);
  • The Guidelines on Evidence, passed by the CIETAC Chairmen’s meeting on 26 September 2014, came into effect on 1 March 2015 (2).

1. The CIETAC Arbitration rules were last revised in 2012.

One of the particularities of the CIETAC is that the institution has sub-commissions or arbitration centers organized as branches, which may accept arbitration applications and administer arbitration cases with CIETAC’s authorization (Article 2(3) of the 2012 and 2015 Arbitration Rules).

When the 2012 Arbitration Rules came into force, two of the CIETAC’s sub-commissions, namely the Shanghai and South China (Shenzhen) sub-commissions, refused to accept them, leading the CIETAC to suspend the authorization it had given to these sub-commissions to accept and administer arbitrations on its behalf.

According to the CIETAC, the 2012 Arbitration rules were revised in “an effort to adapt to the newest development in international arbitration practice and to better accommodate the needs of the parties”. More precisely, the new rules:

  • Introduce provisions applicable in case of multiple contracts (article 14);
  • Incorporate for the first time provisions relating to the joinder of additional parties in complex disputes (article 18);
  • Contain extended grounds for the consolidation of arbitrations (article 19);
  • Introduce emergency arbitrator procedures (article 23 and Appendix III);
  • Increase the powers of the presiding arbitrator of the tribunal (with the authorization of the other members of the tribunal, the presiding arbitrator may for instance decide on procedural arrangements its own discretion, according to article 35 of the New Rules);
  • Increase the threshold for applying for a summary procedure from RMB 2 million to 5 million (article 56);
  • Contain specific provisions for the administration of arbitrations by the CIETAC’s Hong Kong sub-commission, which had not been created when the 2012 CIETAC Rules came into effect. Therefore, the latter did not envisage the administration of arbitrations by the Hong Kong sub-commission.  Provisions to this effect are now set out at Chapter VI of the 2015 Rules.

It is also worth noting that the new rules address the uncertainty resulting from the CIETAC’s split in 2012, providing that “where the sub-commission/arbitration center agreed upon by the parties does not exist or its authorization has been terminated”, the CIETAC Beijing Arbitration Court “shall accept the arbitration application and administer the case” (article 2 (6)).

2.  In 2015, the CIETAC also adopted Guidelines on Evidence (the “Guidelines”) “in order to assist the parties, their counsel and arbitral tribunals (“tribunal”) in dealing with issues of evidence more efficiently in arbitration proceedings” (Preamble).

The Guidelines were adopted in accordance with (i) the Arbitration Law of the People’s Republic of China, (ii) the CIETAC Arbitration Rules, (iii) the CIETAC’s arbitration practice, and (iv) “with appropriate reference to the IBA Rules on the Taking of Evidence in International Arbitration”.

The Guidelines will only be applicable where agreed to by the parties, in whole or in part.

In conclusion, the new tools issued by the CIETAC in 2015 fit into the latest evolution of international arbitration, internationalizing still more the practice of this major arbitration institution.

The new CIETAC Arbitration Rules are available here, the Guidelines, here.

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