Author: Hans Smit*
Published: June 1991
Practice and Procedure
Description: There is a new product on the international arbitration market. It is called fast-track arbitration. Although it was provided for in contracts between international business enterprises, the creative efforts of the ICC International Court of Arbitration in Paris have made it a reality. If left to its own devices, it would most probably have died a natural death. But through the joint efforts of the ICC International Court of Arbitration, the tribunal, and the parties, it was brought into the world alive and kicking. It is likely to have a very promising life.
In the case in which it was born, long-term contracts provided for renegotiation and arbitration within a sixty-day period of certain components of the price of a commodity, composed of various elements. The contract spelled out in adequate detail the steps to be taken in the renegotiating process. The party initiating the process had to serve written notice of its proposals on the other party at least sixty days before the new contract year. The other party had to serve its written response within fifteen days thereafter. If no agreement could be reached within 15 days before the beginning of the new contract year, either party could, within the next ten days, elect arbitration under the ICC Rules. The tribunal had to render its award sixty days after the commencement of the new contract year, which was November 1.
However, no provision was made as to how this arbitration was to be conducted. The only things the contract provided were that the tribunal, composed of three members, was to render its award within 60 days after the beginning of the new contract year and that it could decide only the issues contractually specified for this fast-track treatment. It was left to the ICC International Court of Arbitration and the tribunal to determine whether and how this could be done.
*Stanley H. Fuld Professor of Law and Director of the Parker School of Foreign and Comparative Law, Columbia University.