Your Excellencies, Justices, fellow panellists, ladies and gentlemen, It is a great honour to join you here in Hangzhou, the home of the future.
May I at the outset applaud the visionary work of the Hangzhou Government, not only for hosting this Expo and Summit, but also for the establishment of the China (Hangzhou) Cross-border E-Commerce Comprehensive Pilot Area – at the click of a mouse connecting Hangzhou to the world.
May I congratulate the Hangzhou Arbitration Commission and the ICC (especially Mingchao Fan and Wenny Huang) for their work in bringing us together today, and their commitment to technology, cutting edge dispute resolution and global connectivity.
I would also like to express my admiration to Mr Zhan Wei, who is protecting Alibaba, the e-commerce colossus, by taking care of its Global legal risks.
I would also like to recognise the Hangzhou Courts, ably supported by our good friends at the Zhejiang High People’s Court. We welcomed our judicial brothers and sisters from Zhejiang to our courts, the Dubai International Financial Centre Courts (or DIFC Courts), in Dubai, United Arab Emirates less than a month ago.
In particular may I recognise the work of Justice Ms. Du and her colleagues in the Hangzhou Internet Court. They are building the judicial pathway to the future.
My name is Mark Beer and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you about how technology and connectivity will lay the foundation for growth of commercial dispute resolution in the future.
Today we are living in an era described, rightly to my mind, as China’s century. In Dubai we are creating the City of the Future, and the DIFC Courts are playing their part.
Described as one of the world’s top three commercial courts, we are also known as one of the world’s most advanced commercial courts.
Like Hangzhou, we know that we need to plan today to be ready for tomorrow. That is why Dubai is hosting the Courts of the Future Forum, spearheaded by the Dubai Future Foundation and DIFC Courts, with the aim of designing a global prototype for how the Courts of the Future will apply the Rules of the Future to solve the Problems of the Future.
As President Xi has declared, the One Belt One Road initiative isn’t just about trucks, trains and planes moving across the steppes of Eurasia, and navigating the choppy waters of world trade. It is also a powerful way of reshaping global commerce in cyberspace through harnessing innovation and amplifying connectivity.
And yesterday, we heard how the world has entered the 4th Industrial Revolution and how the Silk Road of the next century will be digital.
The digital Silk Road will multiply connections and networks of connections across the world. It will improve the lives of all people. It will break down artificial barriers and allow everyone, including the poorest in our communities, to participate actively in a world of e-commerce – bringing opportunities and wealth, creating value and wiping out inefficiency.
We know that Hangzhou is taking the lead in Asia (as the DIFC Courts is doing in, what might be called, the West (being the West of Hangzhou)). Hangzhou has the Courts of the Internet and is bringing global thinkers together at Expos such as this one. But whether from the East or West, all of us here today face a momentous test, which goes way beyond this room, and these two days of discussion.
How do we take our ideas and the creative energy unleashed by this event from Hangzhou to the world? Put another way, how do we flatten the obstacles to progress on the Digital Silk Road?
First, we need to identify the barriers. I believe the biggest stumbling block is Trust. Does the world trust e-commerce? Yes or no? What about e-commerce when neither the platform or the supplier are known? What about micro-transactions when the cost of sending the product back is more than the amount paid?
How will a buyer in Minnesota trust a seller in Rwanda or Lanzhou? What if the delivery doesn’t arrive? What if it is the wrong colour, or broken on arrival?
That trust deficit was raised by the CEO of Alibaba yesterday, and will hold back global e-commerce, especially at the micro-transaction level – purchases under USD50.
So what is the answer? President Xi has referenced Cyberspace Connectivity – shouldn’t that also apply to the world’s courts and arbitration centres – shouldn’t they be as digitally connected as Alibaba?
We need to break free from the shackles of granite courthouses, from geographic borders that act as physical barriers. We must break free from the lead weights of the past, and fast forward dispute resolution from the 18th Century to the 22nd Century.
As inefficiency is cut out of the global supply chain through blockchain contracting, we must have dispute centres that support Global e-commerce. For example, dispute centres must be able to access the ledgers on the blockchain, wherever they exist.
Imagine if a contract could be enforced in seconds and not years? Imagine if a decision from Hangzhou Courts or Arbitration Commission was issued without borders, guaranteeing that promises are kept irrespective of geography, passport and language?
The future of arbitration and dispute resolution generally will be forged through global connectivity. Connectivity among the world’s leading centres and thinkers. Connectivity that increases trust and reinforces the digital Silk Road. Connectivity that upholds promises and punishes wrongdoers wherever they may hide and whoever they are.
If that sounds like an impossibility, isn’t that what doomsayers said about flying, moon landings, the internet and blockchain? As we in Dubai and Hangzhou advance with the creation of our future cities, we must also think ahead for future businesses, and evolve our dispute resolution services. We need to ensure our courts and arbitration centres are fit for our future.
Here in Hangzhou we have taken one step towards our goal of global connectivity of dispute centres through the signing of a memorandum of cooperation between the DIFC’s Dispute Resolution Authority – which oversees the DIFC Courts – and the Hangzhou Arbitration Commission. We have many more steps to go, but I am confident that the partnership that we have cemented here today is a compelling example of how we can act in concert to collaborate, connect and make the world a more secure place to live, work, trade and innovate.
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