About a mile from the U.S.-Mexico border, a group of binational attorneys gathered for a roundtable discussion in bustling Tijuana, Mexico, to strategize over a common goal: how to bring alternative dispute resolution (ADR) services to the region of Cali Baja.
The two dozen lawyers brought their individual voices and life experiences, as well as their various legal experiences in a variety of specialties and backgrounds, including private practitioners, in-house counsel and JAMS representatives, to participate in a two-hour dialogue that was robust, lively, enthusiastic and, most important, inclusive and representative of everyone involved.
In this time of transition for international trade, we must offer effective ADR solutions to provide parties a path toward mutually satisfying resolutions.
Attending lawyers pose for a picture after a stirring roundtable discussion on dispute resolution.
Why ADR in Cali Baja now?
Cali Baja includes San Diego County, Imperial County and the Mexican state of Baja California, and offers a very competitive business environment by leveraging complementary resources and capabilities.
A study released in June 2018 put this 35,000-square-mile area’s burgeoning population at over 7.1 million, jobs at 2.2 million and foreign exports at $24.3 billion. The area also has seven points of entry for all modes of travel, connecting this area of the Pacific Rim and Latin America.
With its economic strength and skilled workforce, Cali Baja is one of the most crucial regions for future global markets and is a prime location for ADR services and needs.
Cali Baja specializes in advanced manufacturing, producing many high-value goods, including medical devices, semiconductors, aerospace parts and audio and video equipment.
Despite the complex commercial and cultural environment, most of the legal disputes throughout Cali Baja continue to be handled within the court system. I believe complexity does justify broadening the dispute resolution spectrum.
Barriers to ADR in Cali Baja
Roundtable participants concluded that despite efforts to raise ADR awareness in Cali Baja, it is still common to find court jurisdiction in contracts there due to a limited number of binational neutrals and general unfamiliarity with ADR in Cali Baja.
Nevertheless, multi-step clauses are becoming more common. During the roundtable, in-house counsel mentioned the preference for a mixture of consensual and adversarial dispute resolution processes. Moreover, because San Diego practitioners are used to mediation and arbitration, a smooth transition to ADR throughout Cali Baja can be achieved in the foreseeable future.
Steps to a More Efficient System in Cali Baja
The participants outlined two ways to advance ADR in Cali Baja: (1) ADR promotion by all branches of government in Baja California and (2) the development/promotion of ADR neutrals in Cali Baja.
All roundtable participants are members of the U.S. Mexico Bar Association (USMBA), a binational bar association made up of attorneys from both Mexico and the United States. Founded in 1994, USMBA is based in Austin, Texas, and is open to attorneys and law students throughout Mexico and the United States.
Trade and Competitiveness in North America: A Focus on the Cali Baja Mega Region, Produced by the World Trade Center San Diego with Research Supported by the Center for U.S.-Mexican Studies, UC San Diego School of Global Policy & Strategy, Released June 2018
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