The marvelous vision of geographically and economically connecting 69 jurisdictions across five continents[1] by One Belt One Road (“OBOR”) is just a little short of One World Dream. In context of China’s leadership and commitments by the relevant States, it may well be achievable or workable over next few decades to come, but without harmonizing the legal framework, it faces a potential danger of derailment. The good starting point is that 63 jurisdictions out of 69, are signatory to the UN Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of International Arbitral Awards (commonly known as New York Convention 1958 or NYC [2]. However for economic development and sustainability of growth, thinking in terms of dispute resolution forums, and enforceability of judgments, is a taboo or the last item on the agenda, for visionary investors. Their focus invariably is on conducting business and developing economies. In reality, this is only possible if the governance and legal framework is conducive to encourage infrastructure development.

This Paper reviews the importance of harmonized legislation for movement of 7Ms first, which are: men, materials, machines, management (Corporates), money, merchants and markets, unobtrusively through 69 jurisdictions. In view of execution of any project or investment having secured the source of financing, one has to conduct a review of trade laws, Export-Import (ExIm) regulations, tariffs and taxes, intellectual property laws, labour laws, employment laws, immigration policies, contract laws, banking laws etcetera.  Notwithstanding the fact that numbers of jurisdictions have prevailing local content, local ownership of companies and “Local products first” policies, which will be the first toll booth to cross, on the OBOR journey. It is believed that the OBOR projects are not based on any Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) or Multilateral Treaties, (MITs) or Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs), and neither aid packages. The financing of the projects are dependent on simple lending and borrowing arrangements between host states and China Investment Corporation (CIC), AIIB, Chinese Banks and other state sponsored agencies of China. This poses the question of cross-border insolvency laws and protection against defaults if any, on long term repayment of loans. Therefore the second objective of this Paper is to identify how the regulatory regime through adoption of UNCITRAL Model Laws and UN Conventions can support the OBOR vision.

The Paper provides the findings from the survey of adoption by OBOR Economies of UN Conventions like, Convention on International Sale of Goods (CISG), Model Laws of Electronic Communications in International Contracts, and International Carriage of Goods Wholly or Partly by Sea, Cross-Border Insolvency, and International Commercial Arbitration. The Paper also reviews the legal regime (Civil Law, Common Law, Sharia’h Law or others) and legislative framework for undertaking infrastructure projects and trade, of the relevant jurisdictions. The study of diversity in such regulatory framework is conducted, to see how harmonious regime or convergence of legislation can be realized, so that OBOR operability regime, for borderless development could be encouraged and initiated by the relevant States under the umbrella of UN Conventions.

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[1] The number of countries is based on the list published at HKTDC One Belt One Road Portal, https://beltandroad.hktdc.com/en/country-profiles, accessed on 12 Nov 2017.

[2] The OBOR Members states not signatory to NYC 1958 are: Ethiopia, Iraq, Maldives, Timor-Leste, Turkmenistan and Yemen.