Malta is well positioned to emerge as potential as international dispute resolution centre. The growth of international business has been accompanied by a corresponding growth in related disputes, which are increasingly resolved by way of international arbitration. From an international perspective, the arbitration sector in Malta is still in its infancy; however, the island has been successful in promoting arbitration as an alternative means of resolving commercial disputes and is now slowly branding itself as a location for high-profile and more complex cases involving foreign parties. While international cases can be run in Malta, the government is now looking into how best to move arbitration forward. The island seeks to attract foreign arbitration bodies, from Singapore or London, to use Malta as a venue to run European cases. Malta is also interested in attracting a partner to develop and promote the island as a safe seat and neutral venue for international arbitration.
One thing that Malta has done incredibly well in a short space of time is creating a neutral and welcoming environment for arbitration. The county’s high professional standards in the legal and technological fields, along with the support offered by the Malta Arbitration Centre (MAC), have helped arbitration gain traction. Most cases being handled thus far are of a local nature, however there is a steady, albeit small, stream of international cases.
Malta’s robust, internationally oriented economy and concentration of companies engaged in cross-border business means it holds significant how such as IT, gaming and Distributed Ledger Technologies, as well as in more niche areas such as private jet management and yachting to name but a few.
A Positioning Exercise
Located strategically between Europe and North Africa and within easy reach of the Middle East, Malta also offers companies from the region the right environment in which to resolve commercial disputes. The island positions itself as a European location which offers lower costs than the main arbitration hubs. The MAC could become the first choice for Asian companies with disputes in Europe, for example, in which case it would save expensive and time-consuming long-haul travel for experts and witnesses.
While global cities such as London, New York, Paris, Geneva, Hong Kong and Singapore are regarded as the world’s premier arbitration centres, the sector has seen the proliferation of new regional hubs, while established arbitral institutions are increasingly opening outposts around the world. Inviting foreign arbitration centres to open case management offices is a proven path to recognition and could help Malta’s arbitration sector to strengthen its reputation. The formation of a strategic alliance, or alternatively an agreement with a private firm for the development of an international arbitration section on the basis of ‘build, operate and transfer’, would certainly help arbitration in Malta gain international relevance.