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Courting an international profile

Updated: 2015-12-18 08:29
By Zhang Yan (China Daily)

China's legal profession is promoting training programs to provide the nation's legal eagles with the skills required to succeed in cases around the globe, challenging the dominance of foreign experts. Zhang Yan reports.

 Courting an international profile
Ma Xuejing / China Daily

China's rapid economic development and growing role on the international stage have seen many businesses, including a large number of State-owned companies, expanding overseas and engaging in multinational mergers and acquisitions against a backdrop of growing global economic integration.

On the upside, the companies have grown richer and their global footprints have expanded, but the downside is that the number of international lawsuits concerning Chinese businesses has risen greatly. The growth in transnational legal cases is proving problematic. Few Chinese lawyers have deep experience of conducting cases related to international law, which means foreign practitioners are engaged to act on behalf of domestic companies in about 80 percent of the lawsuits.

According to a survey conducted by the Ministry of Justice last year, the process of "going global" has seen Chinese companies engaged in legal disputes related to trade protectionism and barriers. Many also have faced allegations of "dumping" products in overseas markets - selling goods at prices lower than local norms - and the unethical use of State subsidies.

Statistics provided by the ministry show that in the last five years, Chinese companies have been involved in 328 cases of this type, the highest number for any country, concerning goods and services worth a combined $53.4 billion.

When faced with cross-border disputes, most Chinese enterprises "hire foreign lawyers because of their good international reputations and international resources. That not only limits the influence of Chinese lawyers in international affairs, but even threatens national economic safety", said Zhou Yuansheng, director of the Department of Directing Lawyers and Notarization at the Ministry of Justice.

"To break the monopoly of US and European lawyers, it is essential that we cultivate a professional squad of senior lawyers to specialize in cases involving foreign businesses," he said.

Core national interests

According to Zhao Dacheng, China's vice-minister of justice, the cultivation of legal talent is closely related to core national interests and the country's economic development strategy. However, in recent years, the training of lawyers has "lagged far behind the practical needs required for social and economic development".

The lawyers' participation in international affairs and their influence in the global market for legal services have not adapted in line with the country's economic development goals, he said.

Wang Junfeng, director of the All China Lawyers Association, said that by the end of next year, a training program that started in 2013 will have prepared at least 300 lawyers from 100 law firms to conduct cross-border lawsuits, expanding their presence in a field currently dominated by foreign competition.

Of those, 120 will handle overseas investments, multinational mergers and acquisitions, as well as international finance and securities.

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