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英国仲裁适用外国国家行为准则(英国判决)

更新时间:2018-10-10 10:49:14  临时仲裁 编辑:lianluobu  点击次数:217次

The foreign act of state doctrine in Englisharbitration proceedings

英国仲裁适用外国国家行为准则

Reliance Industries v Union ofIndia [2018] EWHC 822一案中,Reliance Industries Limited BG Exploration and Production India Limited(以下统称为“申请人”)根据《1996年仲裁法》对支持印度政府的仲裁裁决提出异议。英国高等法院有机会审议外国国家行为准则对于仲裁地在英国的仲裁程序的适用问题。

事实背景                  

199412月,印度政府与申请人达成两份合作生产合同(简称“合同”),印度政府授予申请人在印度西海岸勘探石油资源的专属权。实际上,生产的所有天然气和石油均销售给印度政府指定的两家公司:GAIL India Ltd(“GAIL”)和 Indian OilCorporation(“IOC”)。合同明确规定仲裁协议(仲裁地为伦敦)适用英国法律,则合同适用印度法。

2008年和2010年,印度政府根据石油和天然气部颁布的《备忘录》向GAILIOC 发出两份通知,要求政府指定的公司拒绝向申请人付款。

申请人于201012月提起仲裁以解决合同中的一系列问题,包括前文提到的拒绝付款行为。这引发了对国家行为准则(act of state doctrine)的争论。为此,对于《备忘录》是否许可政府剥夺申请人的合同权利,仲裁庭决定不具有管辖权。申请人根据《1996年仲裁法》第67条对仲裁庭的决定提出异议。

外国行为准则

通常而言,英国法认为外国行为准则相当于一项建议,即英国法院不会轻易对外国主权行为的合法性或有效性作出判决。这包括一条准则,即外国立法或行政行为的合法性或有效性因其涉及该国领土内的财产问题而不会受到质疑。Reliance案,法院要解决的第一个问题是申请人的论点是否属于该准则的基本范畴。申请人认为,首先,印度政府不具有依据《备忘录》作出有效命令的宪法权利【合法性论点(Validity Argument”)】;其次,《备忘录》的内容不包含发送涉案通知【适用性论点(“Applicability Argument”)】。

法院认为合法性论点直接涉及外国行为准则,并认为该准则对适用性论点的适用尚不明确,因为评估外国立法范围通常不涉及国家行为准则。然而,法院最终认为适用性观点可以质疑印度政府就其领土内行政行为的合法性和有效性。

国家行为的可仲裁性

法院要解决的另一问题是,即使拒绝付款问题在英国法院不可诉,该问题仍然可以在英国仲裁。申请人认为仲裁庭不是国家机关,因此仲裁庭对相关问题的决定不涉及一个主权国家对另一个主权国家的行为提出质疑。

法院驳回该观点,并认为外国行为准则因适用于在法院进行的诉讼,因此也适用于仲裁地在英国的仲裁。尤其是,外国行为准则的适用并不取决于仲裁庭是一个国家机关。该学说构成了英国国际私法承认国家主权的一般原则的一部分。因此,在适用英国国际私法原则时,仲裁庭必须遵循该准则。

国家行为准则的弃权与仲裁

作为质疑的替代性理由,申请人试图辩称印度政府通过在商事合同中同意仲裁放弃了对国家行为提出任何异议的权利,或辩称印度政府因没有及时提出异议而丧失了向有管辖权的仲裁庭提出异议的权利。

法院驳回了第一个论点,理由是,仅凭一份将合同争议提交仲裁的协议不等于政府放弃其权利(就仲裁庭对国家行为问题的认定提出异议);然而,该法院后来似乎在附带意见中接受这样的观点,即如果各方当事人同意,外国行为准则原则上可以被放弃。

有关质疑的第二个理由,法院认为印度政府没有丧失异议的权利:在当事人于20141017号交换书面意见时,印度政府得知有关《备忘录》的问题并及时提出了管辖权异议。

结 

这份判决明确了仲裁程序适用外国行为准则。虽然此种澄清有益,但案件结果不利于申请人——申请人根据印度法律享有的合同权利被争论的立法行为有效剥夺。

但一般而言,这并不意味着与国家订立合同的当事人会遭受相同的命运。比如,这类合同当事人在合同订立阶段经常考虑采取相应措施(以应对这类国家行为的可能性),帮助当事人降低单方法律变化的风险。这并未质疑国家法律的有效性或合法性。此类措施包括如根据“中立”法律订立合同(即非国内法),使用“经济平衡”条款/补偿以及使交易结构化以获取双边投资条约的保护来应对征收。尽管追求这种选择的价值(及可协商性)需要与如下事实相权衡,即判决效力具有不确定性(因为法官的评论是附带的),以及在任何情况下都可以寻求更为传统的保护,但对于约定在英国仲裁的合同,法官提出的国家行为的弃权类型可能是需要考虑的另一个问题。

 【英文原文】

The foreign act of state doctrine in English arbitration proceedings

In Reliance Industries v Union of India [2018] EWHC 822 Reliance Industries Limited and BG Exploration and Production India Limited (the “Claimants”) challenged awards made in favour of the Union of India (the “Government”) under the Arbitration Act 1996 (the “AA 1996”). The English High Court (the “Court”) had the opportunity to consider the issue of the applicability of the foreign act of state doctrine to English seated arbitration proceedings.

Factual background          

In December 1994, the Government and the Claimants entered into two Production Sharing Contracts (the“PSCs”), whereby the Government granted the Claimants exclusive rights to exploit petroleum resources off the west coast of India. In practice, all gas and oil produced were sold to two Government nominees, GAIL India Ltd ("GAIL") and Indian Oil Corporation ("IOC"). The PSCs were governed by Indian law save that the (London seated) arbitration agreement in each PSC was expressly governed by English law.

In 2008 and 2010, the Government issued two notices to GAIL and IOC pursuant to an Office Memorandum (the “OM”) issued by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas. The notices directed the Government nominees to withhold payments to the Claimants.

The Claimants commenced arbitration proceedings in December 2010 to resolve a number of matters under the PSCs including the aforementioned withholding of payments.This issue gave rise to the debate over the act of state doctrine. In that regard, the Tribunal had found that it had no jurisdiction to determine whether the OM permitted the government to expropriate the Claimants’ contractual rights. The Claimants challenged this finding under section 67 AA 1996 which(in an English seated arbitration) permits a challenge to the tribunal’s award on its jurisdiction.

The foreign act of state doctrine

In English law, the foreign act of state doctrine, broadly speaking, amounts to a proposition that the courts of the United Kingdom will not readily adjudicate upon the lawfulness or validity of sovereign acts of foreign state. This includes a rule that the validity or effect of a foreign state’s legislation, or executive acts, will not be questioned insofar as they relate to property situated within its territory. In Reliance, the first question for the court was whether the Claimants’ arguments fell within the basic scope of the doctrine. The Claimants had argued, first that there was no constitutional power to make an order withthe effect that the Government claimed for the OM (the “Validity Argument”).Second that the scope of the OM did not encompass the issuing of the notices in question (the “Applicability Argument”).

The Court held that the Validity Argument squarely engaged the foreign act of state doctrine. It considered that its applicability to the Applicability Argument was less clear- as assessing the scope of foreign legislation would, of course, not generally engage the act of state doctrine. Ultimately, however, the court regarded the Applicability Argument as a challenge to the validity and effect of executive acts of the Government in relation to the property within its own territory.

The arbitrability of an act of state

The next question for the court was whether, even if the withholding issue were non-justiciable in an English court, it should nevertheless be arbitrable in an English seated arbitration.The Claimants argued that an arbitral tribunal was not an organ of the state and therefore its determination of the relevant issue would not involve one sovereign state calling into question the conduct of another.

The Court rejected this argument and held that the foreign act of state doctrine applied in English seated arbitrations as it applied in litigation before an English court. In particular, its applicability did not depend upon an arbitral tribunal being an organ of a state. The doctrine formed part of a general principle of English private international law which recognised sovereignty of nations. Arbitration tribunals were therefore required to give effect to the doctrine when applying English private international law principles.

Waiver and submission to arbitration in the context of the act of state doctrine

As alternative grounds of challenge, the Claimants sought to argue that the Government waived any objection on the act of state basis by agreeing to arbitration in a commercial contract or that the Government had lost the right to object to theTribunal having jurisdiction by failing to object timeously.

The Court rejected the first argument on the basis that the mere fact of an agreement to submit contractual disputes to arbitration did not amount to a waiver of the Government’s right to object to Tribunal’s determination of act of state issues. The Court, however, did appear to later accept as an obiter comment,that the foreign act of state doctrine was in principle capable of being waived if the parties so agreed.

In relation to the second ground of challenge, the Court also found that the Government had not lost its right to object: it raised the jurisdictional challenge promptly after it became aware of the issue in relation to the OM when the parties exchanged written submissions on 17 October 2014.

Conclusion

This judgment has provided clarity on the applicability of the doctrine of foreign act of statein arbitration proceedings. Whilst the clarification is helpful, the outcome in the case may seem hard on the Claimants – whose Indian law contractual rights were effectively overridden by the legislative acts in question.

This does not mean,however, that, generally speaking, parties entering into contracts with states would suffer the same fate. For example, there are measures which such parties frequently consider at the contracting stage (to cater for the possibility ofsuch state actions) which would help mitigate the risks of a unilateral changein law. These do not question the effect or validity of the laws of the state.Contracting under a “neutral” law (i.e. other than the state’s own domestic law), the use of “economic equilibrium” clauses/indemnities, and the structuring of transactions to obtain BIT protection against expropriation are examples of such measures. The type of waiver of act of state mooted by the judge may be a further point to give thought to in the context of a contract providing for English arbitration, although the value (and negotiability) of pursuing such an option would need to be weighed against the fact that its efficacy is uncertain (as the judge’s comments are obiter) and the fact that more conventional protections (noted above) could be pursued in any event.

By Akshay Sewlikar