Expert Insight

Chinese European Arbitration Center / CEAC vice president of the Chinese European Arbitration Association CEAA & CEAC . Dr. Elke Umbeck female lawyer from German

1- Tell us about yourself.

I am partner of the German Independent law firm In German and foreign clients in all fields of law. My field is that of arbitration and litigation. I am regularly acting as arbitrator and counsel in national and international arbitration proceedings and give advice in complex disputes.


2- what do you do at CEAC?

I am vice president of the Chinese European Arbitration Association (CEAA) which is the sole shareholder of the Chinese European Arbitration Center (CEAC) and which helps to promote CEAC.


3- tell us more about CEAC and which  jurisdictions were involved in cases handled by CEAC

CEAC is designed to deal with international arbitrations involving a Chinese party. It is seated at the Commercial Chamber of Hamburg, which has a long standing arbitration history. The members of CEAC’s Advisory Board and CEAC Appointing Authority come from different jurisdictions including China which makes CEAC a quite unique arbitration institute. CEAC handled cases with parties from seven different jurisdictions. Companies from jurisdictions likee Canada, China, Germany, Italy and Spain have opted for arbitration clauses referring to CEAC in several key areas, such as the solar industry.


4- who established this center, when & why?

CEAC was founded with the support of more than 450 lawyers and institutions from 25 countries. The idea was to accommodate the demands of European-Asian business in an arbitration centre in the city of Hamburg which has been a hub for Chinese trade and investments with Central and Eastern Europe. The preparatory meetings relied on the advice of leading arbitration practitioners and of institutions like CCPIT, CIETAC, ACLA and the Bar Association of Shanghai. The launch of the Center in September 2008 took place in the city hall of Hamburg under the auspices of Secretary of Justice. In 2018, CEAC celebrated its 10th anniversary with a very successful international conference with discussions on the Chinese silk road project and bridges beteween civil and common law.


5- how were the CEAC rules drafted?

Based on the 1976 UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the first version of the CEAC Rules 2008 was adopted by the General Assembly during its founding meeting in September 2008. However, between October 2007 and August 2008 international discussions were leaded by the supporters resulting in adjustments and amendments tailored to the needs of China related disputes settlement which lead to revised CEAC rules in 2012 which are currently in place.



6- how can lawyers become an arbitrator in the CEAC?

Lawyers with experience in arbitrations and China related matters can become an arbitrator. Further requirements are that the candidate has been admitted for at least eight years to a bar or practice as Law Professor in an appropriate/relevant area of law and that he or she becomes a member of the Chinese European Arbitration Association (CEAA). This is a requisite because lawyers or attorneys under Chinese Law are required to have this minimum eight years experience if they want to work as arbitrators. The request is to be submitted to the CEAC using the Application Form and will be later decided by the Advisory Board of CEAC.     


7- there’s any organization support CEAC?

CEAC is backed by the Chinese European Arbitration Centre (CEAA) which is the solely shareholder of CEAC. In addition, partly on the basis of cooperation agreements, many other institutions have been cooperating with the Centre inter alia in the organisation of events either in Germany or in China, among them are the German Arbitration Institution (Deutsche Institution für Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit, DIS), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Center (HKIAC), the Cairo Regional Center for International Commercial Arbitration (CRCICA), China International Economic Trade and Arbitration Commission (CIETAC). And that is not to mention the 450 supporters and institutions from 25 countries that contributed to the shape and establish the institution.


8- can you tell us about the main features of the rules?

The CEAC rules are mostly based on UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. That includes the change of the rules in 2010, which was transposed to the the CEAC Rules in September 2012, so that modern provisions in the field were adopted by the CEAC, such as rules pertaining multi-party proceedings and decisions based solely on documents. However, some minor deviations from the UNCITRAL Rules are present, like provisions regarding time limit for arbitral awards and costs of arbitral proceedings. Also the CEAC rules will be interpreted under the light of the German Provisions on Arbitration (ZPO §§ 1025 - 1066) when Hamburg is agreed upon as the seat of arbitration. Additionally, CEAC Rules contain provisions on the challenge and appointment of arbitrators by means of a neutral CEAC Appointing Authority and on the CEAC model arbitration clause.


9- what about the time & the cost efficiency?

The costs involved in CEAC arbitral proceedings are moderate and depend on the amount in dispute. The costs are determined in the CEACs annex and are reasonable and comparable to the schedules of costs of other renowned international arbitration institutions. With regard to time, according to article 31a of the CEAC Rules, the award is to be rendered within nine months after the constitution of the arbitral tribunal. Irrespective of that, about 50% of the cases under CEAC have been finished within six months.


10- what actually distinguishes CEAC from others?

CEAC is the only arbitration institution with a multilateral approach with regards to European-Chinese-Asean relations. As such, the CEAC Choice of Law Clause offers options to agree on common and/or neutral substantive law rules such as the UNIDROIT principles. Moreover, the city in which it is placed plays a big role, as Hamburg is China’s leading European business and investment hub, with around 700 companies from Hamburg trading with Chinese partners and 520 Chinese businesses having a physical presence in the city. More than 15 arbitral institutions have their seat in Hamburg, making the city also one of the world’s leading centres for international arbitration.


13-what CEAC is doing in order to shape and impact the international Arbitration practice in the whole region of European & Asia Pacific?

CEAA as shareholder of the CEAC and responsible for the promotion of cultural exchange and the education of lawyers in the field of international arbitration. Numerous events, like the China Arbitration Day in Hamburg (2011) and in Munich (2012) were held jointly by the CEAC and other institutions such as CIETAC, the HKIAC and the BAC.The centre has always supported the Vis Moot Court in Vienna and Hong Kong, as well as the Düsseldorf Arbitration School. CEAA seeks to foster arbitration and other alternative means of dispute resolution, as it holds symposia and events, cooperates with international organisations pursuing the same goals.


14- can you share your views why it’s good to choose CEAC for any Arbitration administered by an institution?

The CEAC Rules were meant to be a fit and proper regulation for China-related business, so that the main concern was that judgments based on an arbitration clause referring to CEAC are recognisable and enforceable in China. That comprises, for instance, the qualification of the arbitrators which are asked under Chinese law to have 8 years of experience, and so are required under the CEAC rules on admission of arbitrators. The CEAC also endeavours to ensure neutrality with regard to the substantive law applicable to the contracts, as this is also an issue that can attract parties’ concerns and even jeopardize enforceability of an award. For this purpose the unique model arbitration clause under the CEAC allows the parties to rely on neutral legal texts like the CISG and the UNIDROIT with the addition of a provision excluding national reservations. As both CISG and the UNIDROIT have influenced Chinese contract law changes in 1999 and 2016, this provision should also ease the work of chinese arbitrators or chinese institutional arbitrations that choose to apply the CEAC Rules. Even where the german national arbitration law becomes relevant, in case the parties provide for an arbitration seat in Germany, neutrality is to be granted, since the German Civil Procedure Coder on arbitration is based on the neutral UNCITRAL Model Law on Arbitration.


15-tell us about the International Arbitration in light of the Belt and Road Initiative: Building Bridges – Building Connections.

As China’s import and export trade continues to grow, the role of international commercial arbitration in Chinese-related dispute resolutions also rises, ensuring that market participants in China-related transactions have access to justice. As a result of infrastructure investments linking China with Europe, inter alia in the context of the Belt and Road Initiative, the transactional costs involved have a huge impact. In such context, arbitration as an effective  means of dispute resolution in international contracts has an importante role. Moreover, arbitration also serves as an extra incentive to increase international commerce, since it is much faster and, in most cases, cheaper than ordinary state courts, let alone the fact that it prevents problems concerning enforceability of the awards rendered.

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