The Northern District of New York confirmed this month an arbitration award made in June 2018 by the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC) in favor of two Chinese companies and against a U.S. tool manufacturer. The Chinese companies had contracted to purchase and import machine tools used in the manufacture of automobile engines and other machine parts from New Monarch Machine Tool Inc., a company based in Cortland, New York. New Monarch allegedly defaulted on its delivery and installation obligations under the parties’ sales contracts, which required arbitration of any disputes to take place in Beijing before CIETAC.
The CIETAC panel ultimately awarded the Chinese companies approximately $2.4 million, plus interest, payable within 30 days. When New Monarch failed to pay, a petition for confirmation of the award was filed. New Monarch argued that the award should not be confirmed because the arbitration was not conducted per CIETAC’s own rules and that the award was against the public policy of the United States.
The New York Convention governs the enforcement of arbitral awards stemming from disputes that are commercial and not entirely between citizens of the United States. Article V of the convention provides the grounds for refusing to recognize or enforce a foreign arbitral award, which include the grounds raised by New Monarch. However, the party opposing enforcement of an arbitral award under the convention has the “heavy” burden of proving that one of the grounds applies.
New Monarch failed to meet that burden. It argued that CIETAC failed to follow its own rules by taking more than a year to render a decision despite the rules imposing a six-month deadline. The court noted that the rules permit the deadline to be extended if the panel receives permission from the president of the arbitration court, which the panel did in this case.
New Monarch also argued that the deterioration of U.S.-Chinese trade relations during the yearlong delay made it “impossible for an American company like New Monarch to get a fair shake before the Chinese-based CIETAC.” The court rejected this argument, noting that the public policy defense must be “construed very narrowly to encompass only those circumstances where enforcement would violate our most basic notions of morality and justice.” The court “boil[ed] down” this argument to an “assertion that the confirmation of a foreign arbitral award somehow hinges on the current state of trade relations between signatories to the New York Convention.” The court stated that such a finding would be contrary to the goals and purpose of the New York Convention, which is “to encourage the recognition and enforcement of commercial arbitration agreements in international contracts and to unify the standards by which agreements to arbitrate are observed and arbitral awards are enforced in the signatory countries.”
Chongqing Loncin Engine Parts v New Monarch Machine Tool, No. 5:21-cv-00084 (N.D.N.Y. Aug. 3, 2021).