UK, China to strengthen legal cooperation on Belt and Road programme

2016-11-24 20:11:02 | From:

China and the UK are teaming up to try to help create a long-term cooperation strategy to help companies working within the Chinese government's "Belt and Road" initiative when it comes to legal disputes.

Since its launch in 2013, the Chinese government's "Belt and Road" initiative has attracted around 100 different countries, regions and international organizations into its fold.

But because of the different levels of development, both on an economic and legal front, trade and business disputes within the confines of the program are inevitable.

As such, a UK-China Rule of Law Roundtable being held in Beijing this week has seen the two sides discuss ways to help one-another.

Chinese vice-Minister of Justice, Xiong Xuanguo, says the Chinese side has already begun taking steps to standardize legal expectations within the "Belt and Road" program.

"China's Ministry of Justice has already established a "Belt and Road" research centre, and has organized a series of training sessions for legal professionals along the route. We've already established the 'Silk Way' legal services forum for countries within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That was held recently in the city of Yiwu in Zhejiang."

As with most international legal cases, rule of law within the various jurisdictions is always a major challenge to overcome.

Wang Junfeng, head of the All-China Lawyers Association, admits that with China's legal system still in its infancy compared with other countries, Chinese lawyers are going to need help.

"Many Chinese law firms have been stepping into the international stage by setting up overseas branches or cooperating with their foreign counterparts. But generally, their international competitiveness is limited, as is their knowledge of global legal issues. Britain's legal system dates back hundreds of years. Britain also has high-quality services in areas such as international trade, intellectual property right protection, as well as international arbitration and mediation. This is why we're hoping to learn from our British colleagues."

Robert Bourns, President of Law Society of England and Wales, says he believes it will be helpful for Chinese lawyers to work with their British counterparts.

"We are a diverse profession. And included within that diversity are solicitors from other jurisdictions, using the qualified lawyers transfer scheme. Many firms characterized as English solicitors include within them professionals from other jurisdictions, including many Chinese lawyers. Solicitors tend to work in firms, about 90,000 of our members working some 10,000 firms, providing a range of advice. We tend to share the relationship we have with our clients within the firms.

China's legal code varies somewhat from the UK's common law system.

However, Martin Davidon, chair of the Great Britain-China Center, says lawyers from China shouldn't find the differences too difficult to navigate.

"I think we have put too much emphasis on the legal system differences. For many changes China wants to introduce, the common law system has a great deal of useful examples for that. As regard to One Belt One Road, China is trying to contact many different legal systems which have close link to British system. There are links between judiciaries between Britain and China; How to develop judges, how do they arrive at their decisions, how do they commute their decisions. All are area of overlapping interests."

Meetings this week in Beijing has seen the Great Britain-China Centre sign a Memorandum of Mutual Cooperation with the China Law Society to guarantee future collaboration on legal services through the "Belt and Road" initiative.

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