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Promoting and Encouraging Trade and Commerce in the Pacific Region Through Dispute Resolution

Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and the Centre for Small States, Queen Mary
University of London, held a seminar on 16th March in Brussels on promoting and
encouraging trade and commerce in the Pacific region. Gary Born, Chair of the International
Arbitration practice group at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, and Dr. Petra Butler,
Co-Director of the Centre for Small States and Professor at Victoria University of
Wellington, discussed the importance of an effective, efficient and expert dispute resolution
mechanism for Pacific Island countries to foster and enhance cross-border trade and
commerce. The focus was in particular on the role international arbitration can play to
achieve the Pacific Island countries’ goal of increased participation in global trade.
Diplomatic representatives from a number of Pacific nations and delegates from other
institutions with interests in the region attended.

Mr. Born addressed the audience with an overview and history of international arbitration,
details of ongoing reform and capacity-building in the Pacific region and an assessment of
likely future development regarding the adoption of arbitration legislation by Pacific Island
States. Professor Butler’s presentation concentrated on law reform and outlined the
challenges of international arbitration law reform in the Pacific Island countries due to the
Islands’ pluralistic legal systems and the role of custom. She discussed how those challenges
could be overcome. Ana Tuiketei, a Fijian barrister and Visiting Foreign Lawyer at Wilmer
Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr, chaired the discussion.

The seminar followed and complemented the regional international arbitration conference
jointly organised by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Nations Commission
for International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Regional Centre for Asia and the Pacific, and the
Fiji Government, titled “The Dawn of International Arbitration in the South Pacific.” The
conference, which took place in February 2018 in Denarau, Fiji, was supported under ADB’s
technical assistance titled “Promotion of International Arbitration Reform for Better
Investment Climate in the South Pacific (more information available here). The conference,
which brought together about 130 attendees comprising over 90 delegates from eleven
Pacific Island countries and international arbitration experts, explored the numerous ways
international arbitration can assist the Pacific Island countries to better take part in global
trade. Mr. Born gave the conference's keynote address following an opening address by the
Solicitor-General of Fiji and the General Counsel of the Asian Development Bank, Christopher Stephens. Dr. Butler facilitated a women in arbitration event which enabled
Pacific Island participants to hear from a variety of prominent female international arbitration
specialists on the subject of how to forge a career in international arbitration.

Mr. Born had previously provided advice and support to the Fiji government, as part of an
international team from the ADB and UNCITRAL, in the drafting of the Fiji International
Arbitration Act 2017. This is part of a broader technical assistance project that aims to
promote accession to the New York Convention and international arbitration law reform in
the South Pacific region. Additional Pacific Island states are in the process of examining the
reform of international arbitration legislation in the region.
Following on from the Brussels seminar and the Fiji conference, the particular role
international arbitration can play in environment and climate change disputes will be
explored at a conference jointly held by Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr LLP and the
Centre for Small States on 6 and 7 September this year in London.
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