Through Law 131 of December 2013, Panama amended the arbitral process for both domestic and international commercial arbitration. The newly enacted law replaces previous regulation on the matter, developing new guidelines that respond to the increasing popularity of arbitration as a fast method for the alternative resolution of conflicts.

Law 131 sets out, among other things, new terms and deadlines for all parties involved in the arbitration process (plaintiff, defendant, arbitral tribunal, judicial tribunals, and the Fourth Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice), to act or proceed. As a prime example, the new law reduces the timeframe for the Arbitral Tribunal to issue the arbitral award which settles the dispute. Further, Law 131 does not make reference to just one award, but establishes the possibility to issue partial awards.

This opens the door for precautionary measures and arbitration agreements to be decided through awards, and enables the tribunal to issue an additional award, in case there is the need to resolve any topic not included in the award settling the dispute.

Additionally, the Law includes a chapter that develops the procedure to follow for the adoption of precautionary measures, and establishes and regulates the feasibility of performing precautionary measures and preliminary orders dictated by a foreign arbitral tribunal, through its Panamanian counterpart, the Fourth Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice. The revised legislation recognises the execution of foreign arbitral awards in Panama, in accordance with the New York Convention of 1958, the Inter-American Convention on International Commercial Arbitration of 1975, and any other treaty regarding the recognition and execution of international arbitral awards ratified by Panama

The new arbitration procedure unquestionably places Panama as a reliable seat for international commercial arbitration, and showcases the ability of a legislative body that seeks to adapt norms to changing circumstances.

Originally published in International Financial Law Review, February 10, 2015.

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