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Court Non-Interference Key To Arbitration Hopes

By NEIL HARTNELL

Tribune Business Editor

nhartnell@tribunemedia.net

The courts must “not interfere inappropriately” if the Bahamas is to establish itself as a leading international arbitration centre, a top practitioner agreeing that this nation already possesses many of the requirements for success.

Jonathan Hamilton, head of Latin American arbitration and a partner with the Miami-based White & Case law firm, told Tribune Business that the Bahamas enjoyed “good prospects” for establishing itself as a major alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

The identified the “two key factors” as ensuring the Bahamian courts and legal system respected arbitration decisions, and the process itself, plus raising awareness and “buy in” among international attorneys, companies and practitioners.

Acknowledging that the Bahamas already had “a good legal framework”, Mr Hamilton said it was vital that future court rulings embraced arbitration, and did not refuse to recognise or undermine the outcome of such proceedings.

“The courts will not interfere inappropriately” was, Mr Hamilton said, the main message for the Bahamas to send to the world.

A visiting professor with the University of Miami’s Law School and its International Arbitration Institute, Mr Hamilton encouraged the Bahamas to exploits its tourism infrastructure and reputation to host more arbitration-related events.

This, he explained, would increase global recognition of the Bahamas and what it has to offer through the staging of relevant conferences and similar programmes.

Suggesting that it may take just “several years” for the Bahamas to establish itself as an international arbitration centre, Mr Hamilton added: “It involves raising the awareness of lawyers and businesses about using the Bahamas as a place for arbitration, so people agree that if there’s a problem they will come there to solve it.”

Besides passing its own Arbitration Act in 2009, and being part of most international treaties that recognise arbitration awards, the White & Case partner said the Bahamas’ tourism infrastructure further enhanced its competitive position.

Hotel conference and Board rooms for the hearing of arbitration disputes, he added, were key for the industry.

“The Bahamas has great hotels, great beaches and great weather, all of which make it a place where people want to go to resolve problems,” Mr Hamilton told Tribune Business.

“It ties in with the tourism industry. You need good hotels, conference rooms to resolve arbitration.

“The Bahamas has a good legal framework and good infrastructure for hosting disputes of this type.”

Mr Hamilton was speaking ahead of the September 2-6 conference on international arbitration and trends in the Caribbean arbitration, which the University of Miami Institute is holding jointly with the Caribbean Alternative Dispute Resolution Institute.

He explained that the event had been motivated by arbitration becoming “the main way” for businesses to solve both domestic and cross-border disputes - a trend that is only likely to continue.

“Arbitration has become important because it allows companies to agree to a very efficient form of resolving disputes that is also neutral,” Mr Hamilton added.

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