The Madrid International Court of Arbitration: an alternative for conflict resolution in Latin America.

In the world of private-to-private relations, negotiation is often sought as a preliminary to more formal means of conflict resolution. However, it is not always possible to reach an agreement satisfactory to the parties involved. This is particularly relevant when the two actors have different nationalities, come from different legal and financial backgrounds, and have different expectations of the outcome of the legal relationship.

In contracts of an international nature where large amounts of capital are at risk and important interests are at stake, the parties often seek to cover certain aspects of the legal transaction before a possible dispute arises. These include the applicable law, the third party who will settle the dispute, the place to settle the dispute and the manner of enforcing the decision. Often, the parties will have recourse to the judicial remedy, reinforced by a submission clause in the contract, or by making use of the rules of private international law. However, the parties may agree, if the applicable law so permits, to restrict the application of ordinary judicial proceedings to the dispute.

The arbitration agreement is the instrument that sets out the submission of the parties’ disputes to the review of a third party, usually an institution. It determines the language in which the arbitration is to be conducted, as well as the law applicable to the substance of the dispute, the procedure, and the place where the dispute is to be resolved. The choice of an institution depends on several factors such as the subject matter of the dispute (which is not always foreseeable from the outset), the level of specialization of the institution and the adequacy and detail of its institutional rules.

In this sense, the creation of the Madrid Arbitration Centre (hereinafter, CIAM) in 2020 is Spain’s bid to establish itself as an attractive arbitration seat. Despite its recent creation, CIAM benefits from the extensive experience of its founding Courts in dispute resolution, namely the Madrid Court of Arbitration, the Spanish Court of Arbitration and the Civil and Commercial Court of Arbitration. The institutional rules are sufficiently flexible to ensure that the parties remain in control of the process, while at the same time taking the necessary precautions to ensure the successful outcome of the arbitration proceedings. CIAM arbitrators stand out for their level of specialization in international trade and investment. It also offers the possibility of holding arbitrations in English, Portuguese, Spanish and French. This option is particularly suitable for Spanish, Portuguese, and Latin American companies.

Since its creation, CIAM has been based on three objectives:

  • To promote international arbitration in Spanish.
  • To position itself as a reference institution for those countries with which the Iberian Peninsula shares a legal culture. This parallelism is clear in relation to Latin America and Brazil.

Disputes can be submitted to CIAM arbitration in two ways:

  • Express wording of the arbitration agreement establishing CIAM as the arbitral forum.
  • From 1 January 2020, when the arbitration agreement agrees to submit the dispute to arbitration by one of CIAM’s founding Courts.
CIAM could provide, at this point, the special combination between Ibero-American and European actors.

Since its inception, CIAM has resolved disputes in various sectors such as engineering and infrastructure, maritime and corporate and M&A, both by direct referral of arbitration agreements adopted by the parties and by the opt-in or referral system from its founding Courts. As of May 2022, the institution has administered fifteen international arbitrations with the participation of highly specialized arbitrators from diverse geographical and gender backgrounds.

In addition to the advantages offered by CIAM’s institutional arbitration, Law 60/2003, on arbitration, builds solid foundations to guarantee the proper development of arbitration proceedings in Spain. At the same time, it is a legislative instrument that functions as a safeguard for Spanish arbitral institutions to regulate these proceedings according to their own rules. The margin for the autonomy of the will of the parties, while preserving the flexibility that characterizes arbitration, is one of the strongest points of the Law. This protection of arbitration proceedings is reinforced by the doctrine of the Constitutional Court in its ruling of 50/2022, 4 April, which once again established the doctrine on the limit of jurisdictional control of arbitration awards: under no circumstances can the concept of public order be used extensively so that the arbitrator’s will is replaced by that of the national judge in the review process. These limitations to the external control of the award protect the purpose of submitting the dispute to this alternative procedure.

The work of consolidating the pillars of legal certainty and the specialization of arbitrators continues to develop in Spain. The CIAM initiative continues its crystallization process to become a benchmark institution. The institutional regulations are favorable for achieving this goal, and it only remains for the passage of time to consolidate its position as a reputable alternative for dispute resolution.

More Technical Articles