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Tuesday, August 16, 2016, 23:58

B&R offers new opportunities for legal cooperation: Yuen

By Zhou Mo

SHENZHEN - Legal cooperation between Hong Kong and the mainland should not be confined to the framework of the Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA), Secretary for Justice Rimsky Yuen Kwok-keung argued on Tuesday.

Yuen stressed that the two sides could explore new opportunities under the Belt and Road (B&R) Initiative.

He was speaking at Guangdong-Shanghai-Hong Kong Forum on Legal Services Exchange and Cooperation held in Shenzhen.

Yuen said the environment for cross-boundary legal cooperation has changed compared with when CEPA was signed in 2004.

“At that time, we didn’t have free trade zones and the B&R. Now, the environment is totally different,” he said. “It is important (for Hong Kong) to explore new legal opportunities brought by the B&R,” Yuen added.

“Besides CEPA, the initiative provides good opportunities for legal cooperation between Guangdong, Shanghai and Hong Kong,” he noted.

Yuen said there is no “vicious competition” between the three places – only “healthy cooperation and interaction”.

“By giving play to their own advantages, Hong Kong, Guangdong and Shanghai could create synergy effects, bringing new businesses in one aspect, while, on the other hand, offering legal services that better meet customers’ demand,” he said.

Industry insiders welcomed cross-boundary cooperation, but some said more efforts needed to be made to achieve better results.

Maggie Chan Man-ki, founding president of the Small and Medium Law Firms Association of Hong Kong, noted that the B&R Initiative had created more demand for legal services in Hong Kong. But she said participation of local small- and medium-sized law firms was still limited.

“Small and medium law firms can cater to customers’ demands better. They also have competitiveness in terms of counsel fee. However, the problem is they lack customers,” Chan noted.

She suggested that more opportunities be given to Hong Kong small- and medium-sized law firms to participate in the initiative so all professionals in the industry could share the benefits brought about by the national strategy.

Winnie Tam Wan-chi, chairman of the Hong Kong Bar Association, said mainland law firms are not familiar with the services offered by Hong Kong barristers. She said they don’t know how they can cooperate. Therefore, strengthening exchanges is essential, Tam added.

“However, exchanges should not be limited to big forums. Personal exchanges between Hong Kong barristers and mainland law firms that have interest in employing them as legal advisers should also be promoted,” she advised.

Tam also urged the government to create a roster of Hong Kong barristers with each one’s professional expertise on it. Then, enterprises can know who to consult when they meet certain legal matters and contact them directly.

Meanwhile, Johnson Tsang Man-hing, partner of Tsang, Chan & Woo law firm, expressed hope that Hong Kong lawyers could be allowed to provide legal services in different law firms on the mainland.

“If the government could lift the limit on lawyers working only for one company, personnel exchange will be greatly enhanced,” Tsang said.

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