On 9 January 2017, the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Commerce and the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council jointly issued the Opinions on the Development of Foreign-related Legal Services.
The opinions aim to:
- Establish a system for developing an internationally competitive legal services industry by 2020, expand the number of foreign-related legal practitioners, and increase the quality of services they provide.
- Complement China’s national economic development strategies (such as “One Belt, One Road”) by developing legal services expertise in major infrastructure projects, international trade in goods and services, and innovative technologies and emerging industries.
- Meet the needs of China’s going global strategy regarding Chinese enterprises’ and citizens’ outbound investments by improving legal skills in foreign investment risk mitigation, foreign intellectual property rights protection and foreign dispute resolution.
- Promote China’s foreign affairs efforts through treaty negotiation, international trade dispute resolution, and the development of foreign economic and cultural cooperation.
- Combat transnational crime, drugs and money laundering and strengthen multilateral anti-corruption efforts.
The opinions lay out the following steps for achieving these goals:
- Establish an information exchange platform for foreign-related legal service institutions and foreign-related enterprises and promote foreign-related legal services.
- Cultivate a number of foreign-related legal service agencies with strong international competitiveness and encourage domestic law firms to expand into foreign markets.
- Train foreign-related legal services talent to provide high quality commercial and public affairs legal services.
- Encourage legal services industry associations to self-discipline members and improve service standards and professional ethics in the foreign-related legal services field.
- Encourage and standardise business alliances between Chinese law firms and foreign law firms.
- Establish an inter-departmental coordination mechanism to study and solve problems in the foreign-related legal services field.
- Revise the Administrative Regulations for Foreign Law firms’ Representative Organisations in China 2001.
Thomas Man, Professor from Practice, Peking University School of Transnational Law, Shenzhen
“As Chinese businesses and individuals expand their global portfolios they are increasingly in need of quality international legal assistance, including regulatory and transactional advice and defence in some criminal cases. In addition, China’s global trade and investment initiatives, as well as its desire to combat transnational crime and corruption, have increased the government’s risk profile and its interest in improving the competitiveness of its legal counsel in the global arena.”
No specific action is required as a result of the opinions. Counsel for foreign legal service institutions and foreign law firms may want to follow this development and see if there is any favourable policy available to them for providing foreign-related legal services to Chinese enterprises and individuals or any opportunity in forming business alliances with Chinese law firms.