Spanish firm Pérez-Llorca opens first Asian office in Singapore

Madrid-headquartered Pérez-Llorca will open a new office in Singapore in the first quarter of 2023, making it the first Spanish law firm to set up in the city state. The firm’s first Asian office will be at the forefront of developing its strategy in the region.

Pedro Pérez-Llorca

“The Asian economy is outperforming both the American and European economies,” said Pedro Pérez-Llorca, senior partner at Pérez-Llorca in Madrid. “We have to have a presence there, to help our clients and also for ourselves, to develop our own practice and to continue to learn, and Singapore is, without a doubt, the place to be in the Asia-Pacific”.

Senior associate Pablo Hontoria will relocate to Singapore with a small team of lawyers to lead the new office and his appointment as a partner will be proposed at the next general meeting of partners.

Hontoria started his career at Pérez-Llorca in Madrid in 2011 and worked with partner Iván Delgado to set up the firm’s New York office in 2015. He has extensive experience in advising national and international clients on M&As, transfers of assets and business units, as well as on corporate and corporate governance matters.

The new Singapore office will strengthen the firm’s international projection in collaboration with other international offices in New York, London and Brussels. Besides Madrid, the firm also has an office in Barcelona.

Overview of the New Indonesia-Singapore Bilateral Investment Treaty

On 9 March 2021, the latest Singapore-Indonesia Bilateral Investment Treaty (the “BIT“) entered into force and updates the countries’ investment protection framework vis-a-vis each other. This BIT was previously signed on 11 October 2018 with the goal of promoting stronger economic ties and cooperation between the countries, and replaces the previous Singapore-Indonesia Bilateral Investment Treaty which had entered into force on 21 June 2006 and expired on 20 June 2016 (the “Previous BIT“).

Singapore and Indonesia have historically maintained strong trade ties with each other. Despite trade disruptions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore was Indonesia’s largest foreign investor in 2020, with investments totalling USD 9.8 billion; the countries also enjoyed strong bilateral trade in 2020 of approximately USD 36.8 billion.

Updates to Singapore-Indonesia investment provisions

We summarise some of the more salient updates to the Singapore-Indonesia investment provisions below (where applicable, Singapore and Indonesia will hereafter each be referred to as a “State“):

  • Broadened express definition of “investment”: Whilst the categories of assets which qualify as an “investment” are not closed, the express definition of assets which fall within the meaning of “investment” for purposes of the BIT has been broadened. In particular, the express definition now explicitly includes inter alia construction, production or revenue-sharing contracts, licences, authorisations, permits and similar rights conferred pursuant to the applicable domestic law, and other tangible or intangible property. However, the overarching requirement is that such assets must have the characteristics of an investment.
  • Most-Favoured-Nation Treatment Clause: Article 5 of the BIT (i.e. the Most-Favoured Nation Treatment clause) clarifies that its provisions will not be construed to oblige a State to extend to the investors of the other State benefits of any treatment, preference or privilege from bilateral investment agreements that were initialled, signed or entered into force prior to the entry into force of the BIT, or geographical arrangements within the framework of specific projects. Article 5 also clarifies that it does not apply to options or procedures for the settlement of disputes available in other agreements, and substantive obligations in other international investment treaties or trade agreements do not themselves constitute “treatment” and will not give rise to a breach of Article 5 per se.
  • Restrictions on transfer of assets: Article 8 of the BIT now clarifies circumstances in which a State may prevent an investor’s transfer of assets out of said State through the equitable, non-discriminatory and good faith application of its laws relating to inter alia, bankruptcy, insolvency or the protection of creditors’ rights; dealing in securities, futures, options or derivatives; criminal or penal offences; financial reporting or record keeping as necessary to assist the authorities; ensuring compliance with judicial and administrative orders or proceedings; or severance entitlements for employees. Article 9 of the BIT also provides that a State may in exceptional circumstances, impose reasonable and non-discriminatory restrictions on the transfer of assets or capital.
  • Right to regulate: Article 11 of the BIT sets out expressly the States’ right to regulate within their respective territories to achieve legitimate policy objectives, and clarifies that the mere fact that a State regulates, including through modification of its laws, in a manner which negatively affects an investment or interferes with an investor’s expectations, will not amount to a breach of an obligation under the BIT.
  • Longer pre-arbitration consultation period between disputing investor and State: Article 17 of the BIT provides for a 1 year consultation period (or recourse to mediation processes) before the investor may submit the dispute to arbitration or relevant national court, this consultation period was 6 months in the Previous BIT.

Comparison with previous generation of investment treaties

The above updates to the investment protection framework between Singapore and Indonesia must be seen in context, and it would be apposite to examine the language of the BIT’s articles in light of key characteristics of other investment-related treaties concluded recently in the region.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (“RCEP“) and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (“CPTPP“) are similar to the BIT in being modern treaties promoting regional economic partnerships, containing investment protection provisions. The RCEP was signed on 15 March 2020, whereas the CPTPP was signed on 8 March 2018 and entered into force on 30 December 2018.

An examination of the BIT, the RCEP’s investment provisions and the CPTPP’s investment provisions makes clear that these treaties are part of a new generation of investment treaties which rebalances and recalibrates rights and obligations vis-à-vis contracting States and investors. This has been done by inter alia expressly carving out sufficient regulatory space for the host State through express language of investment provisions, and drafting said treaties with the intent of ensuring that tribunals do not interpret investment protection provisions beyond the scope of what contracting States had intended.

In relation to the BIT’s investment provisions specifically:

  • Sufficient regulatory space for the host State: Article 8(3) allows a host State to restrict investors’ transfer of capital into and out of its territory in connection with legitimate regulatory purposes, and Article 9 allows a host State to impose calibrated restrictions in exceptional circumstances where said transfer may cause serious difficulties for the State’s macroeconomic management. Most pertinently, Article 11 expressly provides for a State’s right to regulate, and clarifies that a State’s regulatory acts do not amount to a breach of the BIT’s obligations per se. Such provisions were uncommon in previous generations of investment treaties.
  • Preventing investment protection provisions from being interpreted too widely: It is apparent that the BIT was drafted with the objective of ensuring that tribunals do not interpret its Articles beyond the scope of what contracting States intended. In this connection, the draftsmen of the BIT have drawn lessons from tribunals’ interpretation of previous generations of investment treaty terms to significantly narrow the scope of interpretative uncertainty in the BIT. For example, the BIT curtails the scope of its Most-Favoured-Nation Treatment clause (Article 5) by expressly providing that it does not apply to dispute resolution procedures and substantive obligations in other agreements. In the same vein, the language of the BIT (Articles 3(2) and 3(3)) expressly clarifies what the BIT means by “fair and equitable treatment” and “full protection and security”, in attempts to foreclose the possibility of such provisions being interpreted in an excessively wide manner (as had notoriously been the case for previous generations of investment treaties).

Concluding observations

The BIT serves as a prime modern example of investment treaties which seek to rebalance the distribution of rights between host States and investors, whilst retaining familiar investor State dispute settlement mechanisms which provides for recourse to ad hoc tribunals. This stands in contrast to the other strand of modern investment treaties, which adopts the more drastic approach of doing away with (or phasing out) traditional investor State dispute settlement mechanisms in favour of a public investment court system (e.g. Chapter 8 of the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement). Only time can tell which approach will set the standard for the next generation of investment treaties.

Singapore jostles with London for top arbitration spot

Singapore now rivals London as the most popular seat for international arbitration, with Hong Kong coming a close second, a global survey has found.

A study by international firm White & Case, in partnership with Queen Mary University of London, has revealed that the popularity of Asian arbitral hubs has grown significantly in the past five years. Asked to select their preferred seats, 54% of respondents chose London and Singapore – the latter making the top spot for the first time. Meanwhile, half of the 1,200 respondents picked Hong Kong.

In 2015, Singapore garnered just 19% of the votes, while Hong Kong was picked by 22% of arbitration users.

According to the report, the increases enjoyed by Asian seats ‘may correlate with a relative reduction in the percentage of respondents who included traditionally dominant European seats, such as London, Paris and Geneva, in their answers.

‘London was selected by 64% of respondents in 2018, making it the most selected that year, but it dropped to 54% in this edition of the survey. Paris fell even further, from its second place showing in 2018, with 53% of respondents including it in their selections, to fourth place this year, as a seat of choice for 35% of respondents.’

The report also revealed a lack of enthusiasm for remote proceedings among arbitration users. While just 16% of respondents said they would ‘postpone the hearing until it could be held in person’, only 8% would actively prefer to hold substantive hearings remotely rather than in-person or using a mix of in-person and virtual formats.

The survey found a significant preference for international arbitration in conjunction with alternative dispute resolution (ADR) as opposed to on a stand-alone basis. This follows a trend over recent years.


IFLR Asia-Pacific Awards 2021 Shortlist Announced

Conyers is once again shortlisted in the IFLR Asia-Pacific 2021 Awards.

We are pleased to be nominated as Offshore Firm of the Year this year again, an award that we won in 2020.

In addition, five of our significant matters advised by our Hong Kong and Singapore based lawyers are shortlisted as Deals of the year:-

The IFLR Asia-Pacific awards celebrate legally innovative cross-border transactions, teams and firms in the region. The results will be announced virtually on Thursday, 25 March 2021. For more information on the nominations, please visit:

WIPO Appoints New Director General

The World Intellectual Property Organization has appointed Daren Tang from Singapore as its next director general. Tang will be the first Asian to hold the top job at the United Nations specialized agency.

Daren Tang, who has led the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore since 2015, is the first Asian to hold the top job at the United Nations agency.


SIAC registers record number of new cases in 2019

The Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC) has set a new annual record for new cases after notching up 479 new filings in 2019.It marked the third consecutive year in which SIAC registered more than 400 cases. SIAC recorded 452 and 402 in 2017 and 2018, respectively. About 95 percent of the cases, while the remainder were ad hoc appointments.Additionally, in 2019, SIAC’s total sum in dispute was S$10.91 billion ($8.09 billion), a 14.6 percent increase compared to the amount in the previous year.The year saw parties from 59 jurisdictions arbitrate cases at the SIAC. According to the centre, “while India, China and the U.S. retained their top foreign user rankings, other significant contributors to SIAC’s caseload included new entrants from Brunei, the Philippines, Thailand, Switzerland, UAE and the UK, which is testament to SIAC’s global appeal to users from diverse legal systems and cultures.”

Davinder Singh, SC, SIAC chairman, said, “We are delighted that so many from around the world have placed their trust in us. We remain committed to ensure that SIAC will provide the best service ever in this field.”


Ex Clifford Chance litigators set up disputes firm in Singapore

Harpreet Singh Nehal, former managing partner of Cavenagh Law, the Singapore Formal Law Alliance (FLA) firm of Clifford Chance, has co-founded a disputes-focused boutique in the city-state called Audent Chambers.

The other co-founder is Jordan Tan, who was previously a counsel at the same firm. The two lawyers will be joint managing partners of Audent.

The firm will have an advocates-only setup, working with solicitor firms.

Nehal, who helped to launch Cavenagh Law, focuses on banking and finance, oil and gas, and TMT sectors. Meanwhile, Tan has experience advising on a number of cases including a minority oppression claim concerning a company with assets above $100 million.

In an interview with Business Times, the lawyers said that they wanted the firm to be one that took on highly complex commercial matters as well as pro bono cases that raised important questions of law and public interest.