As a renowned global center for dispute resolution in international commercial cases, given that English is the leading business language, the United Kingdom (UK) can also rely on the fact that its court rulings are easily recognized and enforceable within European Union (EU).
Indeed, as it is still a member of the EU, the UK is presently bound by the Brussels I Regulation, which sets out a uniform system for the recognition and enforceability of civil and commercial judgments throughout the EU, without having to initiate exequatur proceedings. This also encourages predictability for any business indicating London as the city of jurisdiction for possible disputes in commercial contracts, as this choice must be respected by the other EU Member States.
Here, like in many other matters, Brexit triggers many questions, because it is not certain at all whether the European Commission and the UK Government will reach an agreement for a continued participation of the UK within the Brussels I framework as from its withdrawal date (March 30, 2019). In other words, and unless any transitional understandings organize otherwise, Brussels I will no longer be applicable in the UK. In that case, the recognition by the other 27 EU Member States of London as the city chosen in a jurisdiction clause will therefore depend on the individual national positions of each one of them. Also, it is not certain whether an EU court would be obliged to decline its jurisdiction in favour of an English court. Hence, this situation could potentially discourage foreign businesses from indicating England as their jurisdiction of choice for dispute resolution.
In view of these numerous doubts and with the avowed intention of reinforcing the attractiveness of Parisian Courts, the French Minister of Justice, Mrs. Nicole Belloubet, has just recently announced the inauguration as from March 1st 2018 of a specialized International Chamber within the Paris Court of Appeal (Chambre internationale de la cour d’appel de Paris) destined to hear disputes pertaining to international trade.
Alongside with the already existing International Chamber of the Paris Commercial Court (Chambre internationale du tribunal de commerce de Paris), such an addition clearly establishes a system comprised of two levels of jurisdiction, thus grounding Paris as a solid new forum. Indeed, all appeals against a decision of the International Chamber of the Paris Commercial Court will have to be brought before the International Chamber of the Court of Appeal of Paris.
Dedicated to hearing cases regarding international commercial, transportation, financial and antitrust issues, the idea is to encourage business operators to opt for Paris as their city of choice in forum clauses, as litigants will have the right to plead and provide documentary evidence in English before these two International Chambers without the need of a French translation. Proceedings will share some similarities with British ones, with the possibility for example of obtaining discovery from other parties or even non-parties and cross-examining witnesses and judicially appointed technicians. Once the claimant and defendant have exchanged their first statements/writings, the International Chambers can allocate the case to a fast-track route, whereby the judges will fix a strict timetable for progress to trial. Furthermore, it will be possible for the International Chambers to apply foreign legislation, such as English law for instance, if the parties have contractually agreed to do so.
However, in order to comply with the mandatory use of the French language in French Courts, simultaneous translations will be upheld by means of interpreters. The judgments that are to be rendered by the International Chambers will be written in French, with an English translation elaborated by a sworn translator.
Though such an aspiration is to be applauded in its ambitious intention to compete with other European capitals, who are also presently acting on a comparable trail, for example the Brussels International Business Court, questions still remain as to its outcome and perspectives of success in the near future.
In particular, even though French judges are already accustomed to interpreting and applying foreign legislation, especially English law, one of the keys to success for the International Chambers implies recruiting and appointing French judges with a strong understanding of English and common law.
It is also worth recalling that the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), as one of the leading international arbitral institutions, sits in Paris and that it is of course possible to plead in English before it. Cases brought to the ICC are administered by specialised teams with sound knowledge of the major legal traditions, especially the common law system. On appeal, when applicable, it can be assumed that arbitral awards issued by the ICC should be referred to the International Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal (international arbitration being governed in France by articles 1504 and following of the French Code of Civil Procedure (Code de procédure civile)).
Thanks to these two International Chambers, international businesses will now be able to consider facilitated English-speaking legal services in France for commercial dispute settlement purposes.
Authors: Mr. Olivier MANDEL and Mrs. Soraya AZZABI-RACETTE, French Attorneys-at-Law, MANDEL & ASSOCIES Law firm