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Arbitration award upheld despite Tribunal’s lack of reference to pleadings

The case of Asiana Airlines, Inc  v Gate Gourmet Korea Co, Ltd [2022] SGHC(I) 8 concerned an application before the Singapore International Commercial Court (“SICC”) to set aside an arbitral award, as the applicant alleged that there was a breach of natural justice and a failure to consider all issues placed before the Tribunal.

The parties entered into a Catering Agreement, whereby GGK agreed to provide catering and handling services to Asiana for 30 years. Subsequently, disputes arose regarding the interpretation of “Initial Business Plan”. In Asiana's view, each subsequent Business Plan should be adjusted as a whole, and with new negotiations on the pricing mechanism. GGK disagreed and opined that “adjustment” should not constitute new/complete negotiations.

Subsequently, Asiana claimed that there was a breach of natural justice, in particular the Tribunal had failed to give proper consideration to the report of a Korean law expert. As a result of that, the Tribunal applied the wrong principle when interpreting the terms of the relevant agreement. This expert report had been included in the applicant’s rejoinder, which was part of the applicant’s pleadings in the arbitration.

The SICC rejected the setting-aside application. It held that even though the Tribunal did not take into account the Korean law expert’s report in its decision, this did not matter, as the outcome would have been the same.

The SICC further rejected the applicant’s attempt to raise the argument that the parties’ agreement was invalid (which had been alluded to in the rejoinder), as the SICC took the view that it could not be said that the parties had accepted between themselves and before the tribunal that the issue of invalidity fell to be decided.

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