Australia: Singapore gives effect to Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements

Earlier this year, Singapore followed up on its signing of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements,1 by passing laws to ratify and give local force and effect to this convention.2

These laws came into force on 1 October 2016. As the first jurisdiction in the Asia-Pacific region to sign, ratify and give effect to the Hague Convention, Singapore continues to lead the way as a forum for international commercial dispute resolution.

The Hague Convention attempts to overcome one of the significant shortcomings of cross-border litigation – the reluctance of some national courts to respect "choice of court" clauses that parties often insert into agreements. While these clauses represent a deliberate choice to have disputes resolved in a particular forum, national courts around the world have not always enforced these clauses in a coherent or consistent manner. Further (and notwithstanding the seemingly limited title of the Hague Convention), it was also intended to create uniform rules on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in civil and commercial disputes.3

Traditionally, the recognition and enforcement of foreign arbitration agreements and arbitral awards represent the two most significant benefits of arbitration over litigation, as both are recognised and enforced in the 156 states that have signed the New York Convention.4 The recognition and enforceability of choice of court clauses and court judgments are much more limited. It was intended that the Hague Convention rectify this by creating a global framework of rules on jurisdiction, recognition and enforceability,5 and thereby promote "greater legal certainty for cross-border business" and a "climate more favourable to international trade and investment."6

The Hague Convention includes "three basic rules" that put choice of court clauses into effect:7

  • Rule 1: The court of a Contracting State that is designated to hear disputes pursuant to an exclusive choice of court clause has jurisdiction over, and must hear, a case put before it.8
  • Rule 2: A court in Contracting State other than that of the chosen court of a Contracting State must decline to hear a case put before it.9
  • Rule 3: A judgment given by a chosen court of a Contracting State must be recognised and enforced in a court of another Contracting State (subject to limited grounds of refusal which largely mirror those contained within the New York Convention).10

Importantly, where a party seeks to enforce a judgment in the circumstance described in rule three, Art 9(2) provides that the court of enforcement cannot conduct a merits review of the original decision and shall be bound by the findings of fact and law on which the court based its decision.11 Its effect in respect of judgments is similar to (but not identical with) the provisions of the New York Convention relating to arbitration.12

Of course, there are other bilateral arrangements between states which are designed to achieve a similar result, for example, see the Australian Foreign Judgments Act 1991 (Cth), which provides for the enforcement of certain courts' (stipulated by regulation) judgments. However, the Hague Convention is more ambitious as it is intended to have a multilateral effect.

While the Hague Convention promised a lot when first conceived, it remained dormant from when it was opened for signature on 30 June 2005 until it came into force on 1 October 2015.13 Further, until Singapore's recent ratification, the Hague Convention only had force between Mexico and the European Union states.14 While the United States and Ukraine are signatories, neither has ratified the Hague Convention locally.15 It has therefore had limited practical effect.

Prior to the ratification of the Hague Convention, the European Union states (with the exception of the United Kingdom) and Mexico were not within the ambit of the existing reciprocal enforcement regimes in Singapore.16 This is what makes Singapore's ratification of the Hague Convention so noteworthy.

On a practical level, a judgment of the Singapore High Court or Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), that involves an "international case" and is made pursuant to a choice of court clause, is now enforceable in the European Union and Mexico. Given the competitive attitude taken by Singapore to its status as an international destination for dispute resolution, this may encourage other countries to sign and ratify the Hague Convention.

However, it remains the case that it is unlikely that parties to international commercial agreements will choose a court in the European Union, Mexico or Singapore unless both counterparties (or at least significant assets of these parties) are in a jurisdiction which has also ratified the Hague Convention. For example, for agreements between Chinese and European parties with Singapore as the choice of court jurisdiction, the utility of using the clause would be asymmetrical. While the Chinese party is able to enforce a decision of a court in Singapore in Europe, the European party could not enforce the decision in China. Accordingly, for the moment, the Hague Convention is unlikely to constitute significant competition to international arbitration as a means of resolving international commercial disputes.

The Hague Convention probably needs to be ratified by a global superpower – China or the US – to take on real significance and potentially challenge the New York Convention. With that said, the door is open for other countries, especially those in the Asia-Pacific region such as Australia, to follow Singapore's lead and ratify the Hague Convention with a view to capture a greater slice of the international dispute resolution market. The newly minted SICC, in a relatively short time, has attracted an array of interesting and complex cross-border cases determined by high calibre "international judges" like Sir Vivian Ramsey.

From an Australian perspective, the signing and ratification of the Hague Convention would be welcome. Currently, the bilateral treaty for the Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters 199417 works alongside the statutory regimes18 and common law to govern whether foreign judgments can be enforced. The operation of these treaties and laws is limited and does not resolve the issues that arise with jurisdiction, recognition and enforcement in the same way as an international convention like the New York Convention does for arbitration.

Finally, while the United Kingdom currently has the status of a Contracting State (via its membership of the European Union), that may not be the case once its "Brexit" is finalised. While the matter is complex, signing and ratifying the Hague Convention (or an equivalent treaty or convention with the European states) may be a priority for the UK government to entrench London courts as recognised venues for international disputes. This will be particularly so if the SICC attracts significant business away from other commercial centres.


1 Convention on Choice of Court Agreements, opened for signature 30 June 2005, 44 ILM 1294 (entered into force 1 October 2015) (" Hague Convention").

2 Choice of Court Agreements Act 2016.

3 See Hague Convention (see introduction).

4 Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, opened for signature 10 June 1958, 330 UNTS 3 (entered into force 7 June 1959) (" New York Convention"); see for a list of parties.

5 The Law Society of England and Wales 'Briefing Note on Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements' (11 February 2016).

6 Hague Convention, "Outline of the Convention" May 2013.

7 Hague Convention, "Outline of the Convention" May 2013.

8 Art 5.

9 Art 6.

10 Arts 8 and 9; New York Convention Art V.

11 Art 9(2).

12 See New York Convention Art III.

13 Hague Convention Arts 27, 31; see (at 4 October 2016).

14 Excluding Denmark.

15A current status of the signatories is available at (at 4 October 2016).

16 Reciprocal Enforcement of Commonwealth Judgments Act and Reciprocal Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act.

17 Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland providing for the Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Judgments in Civil and Commercial Matters (Canberra, 23 August 1990). Entry into Force 1 September 1994.

18 Foreign Judgments Act 1991 (Cth) and the Foreign Judgments Regulations 1992 (Cth).

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

Chambers Asia Pacific Awards 2016 Winner – Australia
Client Service Award
Employer of Choice for Gender Equality (WGEA)

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.