Opportunity knocks

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Windfalls always await the lucky and the learned

The regional fortunes of countries have varied a great deal recently as often external factors influence countries in negative or positive ways. In Vietnam, a foreign trade war, a collection of new trade alliances and a raft of pending legislation have placed the communist nation in a fortunate position for a major windfall.

coverIn our cover article, Land of opportunity, we reveal a land buzzing with business excitement. Because of its proven manufacturing expertise and proximity to China, with which it shares a border, Vietnam is expected to be the biggest beneficiary of a protracted trade war. Media reports have suggested that a lot of Chinese manufacturers are considering moving their factories to south of the border.

There is also palpable excitement about the prospects of the various free-trade agreements that Vietnam has been signing. The European Union-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in particular is expected to be one of the biggest game changers for the country’s economy, and expectation surrounds the impact of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

The nation has used various bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to forge a path for itself, and has signed several FTAs with neighbouring countries. The government, meanwhile, is working on important legislation to make the country more business-friendly. A New Law on Enterprises, a New Law on Investment, a New Competition Law, a cybersecurity law and data protection regulations are some of the legal changes in the works, along with plans to move the courts towards a precedent-based system. For a comprehensive look at trade and legal reform to boost the economy in Vietnam, this article is not to be missed.

Our second feature, The age of in-house counsel, is a reproduction of a speech made by Professor Eunice Kim during the International Bar Association’s recent annual conference in Seoul, organized by the In-House Counsel Forum (IHCF). Professor Kim is a Yale-educated lawyer who currently works at Seoul’s Ewha Women’s University as a professor of law. She held positions including deputy CEO, chief compliance officer, chief legal officer at Hana Financial Holding; managing director, chief compliance officer at Citibank Japan; executive vice president, managing director, chief legal officer at Citibank Korea; and COO, Franklin Templeton Investment Management. She shared her past experiences during the “age of outside counsel” to a new era, where she says the sky is the limit for today’s in-house counsel.

Kim says what we are seeing is the rise of in-house legal departments in virtually all sectors and industries, and the transformation of the law firm practice (private practice) to accommodate the changing role and demands of in-house counsel.

The A-List for this issue covers the Top 100 lawyers in Thailand. Comments from clients indicate the preferred lawyers are always unbiased and well-researched, with a solid work ethic, integrity, industry knowledge and commitment. Clients also indicate they look for corporate lawyers capable of handling complex cross-border transactions, and with the ability to bridge cultures – “someone you want on your side of the table”, in the words of one US senior counsel. There are two Expert briefings this issue, the first looking at M&A in Thailand, where we find the Southeast Asian nation expects multibillion-dollar infrastructure projects to drive M&A forward. But clients should first beware of developments concerning foreign ownership restrictions.

The second briefing looks at the mature regimes of Jersey and Guernsey in the Channel Islands, and how the two offshore centres are of growing relevance to Asian managers looking to take advantage of investment and fundraising opportunities in the UK and Europe. The briefing explores the tools needed for investment managers, family offices and other advisers looking to set up structures in Guernsey and Jersey to either attract capital or to deploy it.

Best wishes,

Mithun Varkey
Editor, Asia Business Law Journal
Managing Editor, Vantage Asia