Test of Reciprocity Appears to be Relaxed in China for Foreign Judgments Recognition and Enforcement

As reported by the China International Commercial Court on its website, the "Minutes of the Symposium on Foreign-related Commercial and Maritime Hearings by Courts Nationwide" (Minutes) issued in January 2022 appears to to have significantly lowered the bar of reciprocity for foreign judgments recognition and enforcement currently adopted by Chinese courts.

The Minutes, which deals with three main aspects, i.e. foreign-related commercial matters, maritime matters and judicial review of arbitrations, has one section dedicated to the hearing of applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments before Chinese courts.

Crucially, point 44 says that a Chinese court may deem reciprocity as established with a foreign jurisdiction under any of the following circumstances, if China and that foreign jurisdiction have not concluded any bilateral treaty that deals with the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements:

1. Commercial judgments by Chinese courts can be recognized and enforced by the courts of that foreign jurisdiction pursuant to laws of the foreign jurisdiction;

2. China has reached a memorandum or consensus on reciprocity with that foreign jurisdiction; or

3. China and that foreign jurisdiction have made reciprocity commitments to each other via diplomatic channels, and there is no evidence that the courts of that foreign jurisdiction have previously refused recognition and enforcement of a Chinese court judgment on the ground of lack of reciprocity.

According to point 44, the test of reciprocity for judgments recognition and enforcement in China appears to have been significantly liberalized from strict de facto reciprocity to the acceptance of de jure reciprocity.

The Minutes also clarifies other points on judgments recognition and enforcement, including, among others, the treatment of punitive damages, the grounds for refusing recognition and enforcement and the documents that should be submitted in applications for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in China.

The full text of the Minutes can be viewed here in Chinese.

It will be interesting to see how the Minutes is applied in judicial practice when the next application for foreign judgments recognition and enforcement comes before a Chinese court.

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