Rethinking International Commercial Arbitration

Rethinking International Commercial Arbitration

Rethinking International Commercial Arbitration – Towards Default Arbitration, Edward Elgar, 2017.


This innovative book proposes a fundamental rethink of the consensual foundation of arbitration and argues that it should become the default mode of resolution in international commercial disputes.

The book first discusses the most important arguments against this proposal and responds to them. In particular, it addresses the issue of the legitimacy of arbitrators and the compatibility of the idea with guarantees afforded by European human rights law and US constitutional law. The book then presents several models of non-consensual arbitration that could be implemented to afford neutral adjudication in disputes between parties originating from different jurisdictions, to offer an additional alternative forum in the doctrine of forum non conveniens or to save judicial costs.

The first dedicated exploration into the groundbreaking concept of default arbitration, Rethinking International Commercial Arbitration will appeal to scholars, students and practitioners in arbitration and international litigation.

Arbitration is, for many reasons – one of which is neutrality – a more suitable mode of dispute resolution in an international context than litigation before a State court. Building on his seminal 2009 article, Professor Gilles Cuniberti implacably demonstrates that arbitration should be given the status of default mode, and systematically rebuts the conventional objections against such a revolutionary proposal. He does so with such talent and persuasive power that the initially sceptical, but open-minded, reader, after turning the last page, must honestly admit that Professor Cuniberti might well have convinced him.

Pierre Mayer, Emeritus Professor at the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne


Cuniberti’s thought-provoking book elaborates on the concept of default arbitration which he was the first to propose in a 2009 article. The idea is that, in the international setting, arbitration should be the default mode of resolution of commercial disputes because it is superior to court litigation, particularly on account of its neutrality and flexibility. This shift of paradigm has been gaining traction, but remains controversial. Cuniberti’s well-argued analysis brings a welcome breath of fresh air to the debates on arbitration, which remain extremely deferential to acquired wisdom but often fail duly to consider the evolution in the reality of international commercial relations.

Luca G. Radicati di Brozolo, Catholic University of Milan


International commercial arbitration has of late attracted vast amounts of commentary, much of it merely advocacy in favor of or against the enterprise, and all too often polemical in nature. What the field has lacked is a truly penetrating and holistic study of the challenges facing the enterprise, both its workings and its connection with other international dispute resolution regimes. Into this gap comes Gilles Cuniberti’s masterful work which deserves the attention of anyone wanting to take international commercial arbitration seriously.

George A. Bermann, Columbia Law School


The value of Professor Cuniberti’s book is not only in the approach that he takes, namely analysing different models of arbitration, such as foreign investment and domain name arbitrations, and drawing methodological conclusions to lay the foundations for his default arbitration model. The importance of the monograph lies also in asking questions which force us to rethink the role of arbitration in international trade and re-evaluate the benefit it has to the international business community.. . . The book deserves the attention of anyone interested in dispute resolution.

Petya Koycheva, International Company and Commercial Law Review


Dr. Cuniberti’s work proves to be a unique and challenging one, as it not only provides arguments supporting his thesis, i.e. that default arbitration should be the rule in the international commercial context, but argues for a change of paradigm: to move from a contractual/consensual foundation of arbitration to a very different one, where arbitration does not require any express agreement from the parties. The implications of such a proposal are, from our point of view, of great extent (…). Furthermore, it is hard for us to imagine that upon acceptance of such a position and change of paradigm, the same would not apply to domestic arbitration, and further to arbitration as a whole. After all, the advantages of arbitration seem to be applicable in both international and domestic context and it seems to be only a matter of time until domestic arbitration follows the same path. Default arbitration seems inevitable.

Alfredo Bullard and Jose Maria de la Jara, ICC Dispute Resolution Bulletin


Arbitration without consent is a truly revolutionary concept. This concept, however, carries the burden of every pioneer; there is currently no model of “consentless” arbitration that is already working in different fields of law waiting for its implementation in international commercial arbitration. Furthermore, taking inspiration in investment treaty arbitration or domain name arbitration, where consent is still constructed, will always raise numerous “buts”. (…) Notwithstanding the above, the book approaches the topic with an open mind and brings fresh air to the discussion on arbitration as a default rule. The book represents a courageous attempt to completely renegotiate the terms on which international commercial arbitration rests nowadays.

Nicole Jancova, Transnational Dispute Management


It is submitted that the current regime of international commercial arbitration overall functions and serves its users well. Although there will always be room for improvement, there is no evidence that it suffers from any problem that could be fixed by ‘default arbitration’. For this concept to merit any further discussion, a pressing need for change should be demonstrated first.

Johannes Landbrecht, Australian Yearbook of International Law


Insgesamt handelt es sich um ein lehrreiches, zum Nachdenken anregendes Buch über ein Konzept, das seine Tragfähigkeit erst noch beweisen muss. Zwar bleibt abzuwarten, ob Default Arbitration tatsächlich einmal das Stadium eines juristischen Glasperlenspiels überschreiten und den Weg in die Wirklichkeit finden wird, doch sollte dies nicht dazu führen, sich dem Thema von vornherein zu verschließen. Das Buch verschafft einen guten Überblick über das Konzept Default Arbitration und eine Vielzahl der Fragen, die damit im Zusammenhang stehen, ohne sie erschöpfend zu erörtern. Insbesondere zeigt es auf, dass man sowohl die grundsätzliche Zuständigkeit staatlicher Gerichte in internationalen Handelssachen als auch die vertragliche Basis der Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit nicht unkritisch als unumstößliche Dogmen verstehen sollte. Schließlich setzt das Buch auch einen deutlichen, vielleicht teils zu euphorischen, Kontrapunkt zur noch immer lautstarken Kritik an der Handelsschiedsgerichtsbarkeit.

Stephan Walter, SchiedsVZ


Vermutlich wird es weiter bei einem Thema von eher akademischem Interesse bleiben – aber immerhin eines, das auch der Emanuel Macron der französischen Schiedsgerichtsbarkeit, Gilles Cuniberti, bereits in ähnlicher Form aufgegriffen hat.

Stephan Wilske, Lars Markert & Laura Bräuninger, SchiedsVZ