Tomasz J Sikora Keynote Remarks
The keynote speaker of this inaugural CanArbWeek was Thomasz J Sikora. Sikora currently manages commercial and investment arbitration for Exxon Mobil Corporation. Before that, he worked in-house at El Paso Corporation managing its disputes, and had a private practice at Vinson & Elkins LLP in Houston. In addition to his professional expertise, Sikora’s big personality and engaging manner made him an ideal keynote speaker. Sikora is the type of attorney who would thrive in the court room, the classic smooth-talker who could easily win over a jury. He used those gifts in this address to keep everyone’s eyes glued to their screens.
Sikora was asked to provide his perspective, as a frequent consumer of arbitration services, on Canada as a seat and a hearing venue. Displaying a keen talent for pleasing his audience, Sikora described Canada as an ideal place to arbitrate. In addition to exceptional arbitrators and counsel, Canada’s laws and courts are well-suited for arbitration, with the courts maintaining impartial and accurate decision making.
Sikora laid out 3 main reasons why Canada is an ideal place to arbitrate: the relatively low cost (especially as compared with major arbitration seats like London, New York, Hong Kong, and Singapore), the geographical location of the country, and the quality of the facilities available. Sikora urged Canadians to capitalize on these advantages, especially while arbitration is—as he described it—under threat both externally and internally. From the outside, countries and blocs like the European Union are changing their rules and vesting more decision-making power in the hands of governments. The system of international development by way of foreign investment is being dismantled, which means that the multilateral investment court, a beacon for arbitration, is also under threat. Arbitration is also under threat from within, as costs and complexity skyrocket. If arbitration can’t keep things simple and inexpensive, it will undermine its very purpose and the strengths that have made it so attractive in the past.
Sikora ended his address by acknowledging how much hope he has for arbitration and the arbitration community. He described his wishes that arbitration continues to establish itself in Canada, and that it will carry on as an effective and efficient way to resolve commercial and investment disputes.