France and China are bound by the New-York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (herein referred to as the “Convention”) of 10 June 1958.
Therefore, the recognition and enforcement of any foreign arbitral award between France and China shall be governed by the Convention.
Article 25 of the bilateral Treaty on mutual legal assistance in civil and commercial matters between the Government of the French Republic and the Government of the People's Republic of China entered into on 4 May 19874 also sets forth that each party (to the Treaty) recognises and enforces the arbitral awards rendered on the territory of the other party in accordance with the provisions of the Convention.
Key principles under the Convention
The Convention seeks to provide common legislative standards as follows:
recognition of arbitration agreements entered into between parties as to the resolution of their disputes concerning matters that are capable of being settled by arbitration;
unless the arbitration agreement is null and void, inoperative or incapable of being performed, the courts of the contracting States to the Convention must refer the parties to arbitration upon the request of any such party;
no discrimination against foreign and non-domestic arbitral awards which shall be binding and enforceable according to the procedural rules of the contracting State where the award is relied upon.
Documents to be submitted for the recognition and enforcement of a Convention award
The party seeking recognition and enforcement of a foreign arbitral award under the Convention must submit to the competent jurisdiction (such jurisdiction being in France the Tribunal de Grande Instance of Paris for awards rendered outside France) the following documents:
an authenticated original of the award or a duly certified copy thereof;
an original copy of the arbitration agreement or a duly certified copy thereof;
a translation (certified by an official or sworn translator or a diplomatic or consular agent) of the documents mentioned above where the official language of the above referred documents is not that of the enforcing State.
Grounds for refusal to recognise and enforce a Convention award
The recognition and enforcement of an arbitral award may be denied if:
the subject matter of the difference is not capable of settlement by arbitration under the law of the country where the recognition and enforcement are sought;
the recognition and enforcement of the award would be contrary to the public policy of that country.
A party against whom an award is sought to be recognised and enforced may also resist the request by proving that:
the parties to the arbitration agreement were under some incapacity;
the arbitration agreement was not valid under the laws to which the parties have subjected it or, failing any indication thereon, under the law of the country where the award was made;
proper notice of the appointment of the arbitrator or of the arbitration proceedings was not given to the party against whom the award is invoked or such party was unable to present his case;
the award addresses a difference not contemplated by or outside/beyond the terms of the submission to arbitration;
the composition of the arbitral authority or the arbitral procedure was not in accordance with the agreement of the parties, or failing such agreement, was not in accordance with the law of the country where the arbitration took place;
the award has not yet become binding on the parties, or has been set aside or suspended by a competent authority of the country in which, or under the law of which, that award was made.
The above circumstances are the only grounds upon which a foreign award may be denied recognition and enforcement under the Convention.
It is noteworthy that French courts are liberal in respect of foreign arbitral awards and in practice rarely refuse their recognition and enforcement. In this regard, it is even not unusual that French courts accept to recognise and enforce a foreign award that does not necessarily meet the Convention’s conditions where the French rules on recognition and enforcement of arbitral awards, which are more flexible and less restrictive than those sets forth in the Convention, are met.
Consequences of the recognition and enforcement of a Convention award
A Chinese arbitral award that obtains final recognition and enforcement in France may be fully executed on the French territory.
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