Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly


Adrian Briggs KC

Emeritus Professor of Private International Law, University of Oxford
Giles Cuniberti, Professor of Comparative and Private International Law, University of Luxembourg. Edward Elgar, Cheltenham (2022) xcii and 506 pp., plus 7 pp. Bibliography and 20 pp. Index. Hardback £205.
The 1985 UNCITRAL Model Law on International Commercial Arbitration was not taken up into English law. In 1989, the Committee set up under Lord Mustill to consider the possibility recommended against, for reasons which are only a little unfairly characterised as English exceptionalism. But the gist of its view can be summarised in its own words:
“The sheer volume of international arbitration in England, and particularly in London, is such that the daily experience gained by lawyers, arbitrators, and judges in the practical application of the law to the changing needs of commercial arbitration has kept the law, as enacted and as developed through the cases, both rich in depth and well abreast of contemporary demands. The system is, moreover, familiar to, and accepted and trusted by a very large international community… The argument in favour of enacting the Model Law in the interests of harmonisation, or of thereby keeping in step with other nations, are of little weight. The majority of trading nations, and more notably those to which international arbitrations have tended to gravitate, have not chosen thus to keep in step. There would in our judgment be undoubted disadvantages in introducing a new and untried regime for international commercial arbitration, with all the transitional difficulties that this would entail, and at the same time retaining the present regime for domestic arbitration.”
Professor Cuniberti (at xx) assesses the Model Law as an “enormous success”, at least in part because it has been adopted, holus bolus or with modest degrees of local adjustment, by so many, and many serious, countries. The Law Commission (Review of the Arbitration Act 1996: LCCP 257, 2022) also regards it as a success, counting (at [1.27]) the number of adopting states as “around 118”. That is revealing. Professor Cuniberti recognises that

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