Singapore to host global conference on convergence of Asian business laws

Singapore, Jan.20 (ANI): Some 500 participants, including senior judges, lawyers and business leaders from the region, will gather in Singapore tomorrow for an inaugural conference to discuss how Asia can come together to harmonise its diverse, disparate commercial laws.

The two-day “Doing Business Across Asia: Legal Convergence in an Asian Century” conference organised by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) is the largest of its kind in Asia to bring together multiple stakeholders to focus on an issue often viewed by CEOs as one of the biggest impediments to cross-border business in Asia – the region’s fragmented legal landscape.

Surveys of CEOs across the region often pointed to inconsistent regulatory standards, inefficient court systems, and poor enforcement of judgements, among the stumbling blocks to cross-border trade and commerce, and for pushing up the costs of doing business in the region.

Through the conference to be held at the Raffles City Convention Centre, the SAL hopes to spark a sustained conversation among members of the judiciary, legal, and business communities, initially in key cities in the region, on the imperative for Asia’s commercial laws to move in the same direction, to aid rather than impede business.

The conference will see the launch of the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI), a permanent research institute that will conduct research and propose practical solutions to support the convergence of Asian commercial laws. The ABLI will also serve as a forum for intellectual collaboration among judges, lawyers, businessmen, academics and policy-2 makers in the region.

The SAL’s President, the Honourable Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon, will unveil its first Board of Governors at the opening day of the conference.

The SAL’s legal convergence initiative has also received support from the region’s leading judiciaries, corporations and law firms, as well as the Singapore’s Economic Development Board.

Some notable speakers at the conference include Mr Henri de Castries, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, AXA; Mr Simon Israel, Chairman, SingTel; Ms Marjorie Yang, Chairman of leading global textile and apparel manufacturer Esquel Group; the Honourable Chief Justice Robert French AC, High Court, Australia; the Honourable Chief Justice Geoffrey Ma Tao-li, GBM, The Court of Final Appeal, Hong Kong SAR, and the Honourable Senior Judge Zhang Yongjian, Supreme People’s Court, China.

Chief Justice Menon will deliver the opening address while Singapore’s Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law, Mr K Shanmugam SC, will deliver the closing address.

Commenting on the SAL’s initiative on legal convergence, CJ Menon said: “The law is indispensable to business. Business actors transact in the shadow of the law and depend upon the legal system to uphold bargains and enforce agreements. But the transnationalisation of trade has made it imperative that the legal systems of the world accommodate and adjust to this new reality by developing the means to ensure that regulatory arbitrage does not end up becoming an impediment to the growth of trade.

“It is against this backdrop that we are convening this conference. It is meant to serve as a platform for open and thought-provoking discussions on how we might, together, tackle some of the common challenges of the borderless transnational trading environment we are rapidly moving towards.”

He added that Singapore, with its strong judicial precedents and established legal system, is well placed to drive these ground-breaking initiatives to build an integrated system for resolving regional commercial disputes. CJ Menon also believes that legal convergence is an imperative if Asia is to fully exploit the extent of its economic expansion and to achieve its vision of an Asian century.

The Chairperson of SAL’s Steering Committee on legal convergence Mrs Lee Suet-Fern, who is also Managing Partner, Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC, said: “With the conclusion

3 and launch of a flurry of regional trade and economic pacts, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Asean Economic Community, the time has come to remove legal barriers to cross-border business. We hope our first conference on legal convergence will lead to more awareness of the urgency for the region to get its act together to remove legal obstacles to free trade and commerce. We need region-wide participation, acceptance and implementation of all the good ideas which we will, no doubt, hear at the conference, if legal convergence is to become a reality.”

Mrs Lee said the convergence of Asian business laws will help the region to sooner realise the benefits of the various regional economic and trade pacts that politicians and policy-makers had spent years negotiating.

Some of the issues that will be discussed at the conference include the role of legal and regulatory frameworks for businesses across Asia, how Asia can learn from global harmonisation initiatives, and issues with regards to enforcement of foreign judgement rules in ASEAN, Australia, China and India. (ANI)

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