On February 7, 2018, the Commercial and Appellate Courts of Paris officialized the creation, for each of them, of a chamber dedicated to resolving international commercial litigations. These chambers are known as the International Commercial Courts of Paris (the “ICCP”).
Proceedings before the ICCP have been revised recently to better meet the specific needs of foreign parties involved in international commercial litigations taking place in Paris, in a move to strengthen foreign investments in France, especially in the context of Brexit with a commercial litigation market that represented in 2016 $17.2 billion in the United Kingdom.
The ICCP now have jurisdiction over commercial international litigations taking place in France, making the Paris forum a significantly more attractive forum to U.S. companies and other foreign companies conducting business in France or even elsewhere in the European Union.
First, the ICCP now enables parties to conduct their proceedings in English—whether French law applies or not. Documents may be submitted in English, and foreign witnesses, experts, and parties can be deposed in English, as well. Conversely, parties may opt to have debates in French and have them translated in English at the same time. Either way, ICCP judgments will be decided in French accompanied with sworn English translations, which will be easily enforceable across the European Union through existing conventions between member states. Therefore, proceedings before the ICCP are now both more flexible and international, bringing them closer to U.S. court proceedings or international arbitration, and allowing U.S. and other foreign parties to ultimately be more involved in the organization and conduct of their proceedings in France.
Second, parties and judges can now meet several times (after the filing of the parties’ first submissions, or even before the opening of the oral phase), jointly determine the schedule of the proceedings, as well as the administration of evidence, including a possible hearing of witnesses and experts. In addition, new evidentiary rules similar to those applicable in U.S. proceedings or international arbitration (e.g., the use of expert hearings and counter-hearings) are now permissible, giving more weight to witness testimonies.
Third, the judges of the ICCP are qualified in commercial, financial and economic matters, with knowledge of the main applicable foreign laws, and can also conduct proceedings in English, making it easier for U.S. parties to understand their litigations. By the same token, foreign parties to ICCP proceedings can chose, under certain conditions, their own lawyer who does not have to a be French lawyer.
Finally, one of the most attractive features of the ICCP for U.S. and other foreign companies is its price-quality ratio, as opposed to, for instance, international litigation. In several studies (2015 Queen Mary Survey “Improvements and Innovations in International Arbitration”; PWC 2013 International Arbitration Survey: Corporate choices in International Arbitration), cost and lack of speed were both ranked as among the worst characteristics of international arbitration. Since the average duration of an arbitration is between 17 to 20 months and the average costs incurred by the parties range between $2,294,000 to $2,588,000, most litigants would, therefore, agree that international arbitration proceedings “take too long” and “cost too much.“.
Therefore, with its flexible procedure which adapt to the needs of the parties, the ICCP provides U.S. companies with a qualitative and less expensive forum for resolving their disputes in France (especially when the matter involves multiple countries within the European Union), and similar to U.S. litigations or international arbitrations.
To this date, the international chamber of the Appellate Courts of Paris has already handled 20+ proceedings, increasingly becoming more popular to the detriment of the High Court of Justice of London where 80% of the docket is foreign-based.
*Pierre Mousseron is a Professor of Law and the Director of the International Business Law LL.M. program at Montpellier Law School, France.