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‘Got a business dispute? Hire a mediator!’

‘These are unprecedented times,’ said scrap trader Michael Lion of Everwell Resources in China in his role as moderator of an online discussion presented by the Bureau of International Recycling. According to Lion ‘forbearance and understanding’ are very important at the moment and ‘patience is the watchword’, particularly when it comes to dispute resolution.

BIR actively encourages amicable settlements, said the world recycling organisation’s president Tom Bird, who also described the current, gradual re-emergence from lockdown as ‘a critical time’ in which cash flow would be ‘vitally important’.

If businesses want to maintain amicable relationships when disputes arise, they should take account of cultural differences and consider mediation ahead of formal arbitration, suggested Mark Sellier of China-based Global Metals Network. He also stressed the differing interpretations of force majeure from one country to another. ‘In some jurisdictions,’ he said, ‘Covid-19 would not be considered to be force majeure.’

Why not switch to video?

Sellier said he learned a lot about counter-party risk from the global financial crisis of 2008. His company had introduced measures to reduce exposure and secure payment before relinquishing title to goods. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, business conditions had been made more challenging because it has not been possible to visit customers’ yards and facilities or check stock levels. However, his business was looking to maintain regular direct contact with customers through video links.

From over-supply to over-demand

There had been considerable difficulties in obtaining CCIC certification in some parts of Europe because of travel restrictions and office closures, according to Sellier. ‘The only certainty is that things are uncertain,’ he said. As regards recovered fibre, Sébastien Ricard of Paprec in France said no real issues had arisen with CCIC certification because relatively small volumes were currently being shipped to Asia. A switch in Europe from fibre ‘over-supply’ to ‘over-demand’ had intensified the focus on supplying more local markets.

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