The Bar Council's International Malaysia Law Conference 2016 ("IMLC 2016") was held at The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur from 21 to 23 Sept 2016.
By Ariel On
The ASEAN Economic Community (“AEC”) became a reality on 31 Dec 2015, and consists of 10 countries. Does that mean that ASEAN law consists of ten sets of domestic legal systems? What are the changes awaiting us, as lawyers advising clients on multi–jurisdiction transactions? What are the dispute settlement mechanisms available in ASEAN?
This session, jointly held with the ASEAN Law Association, examined a number of these issues, with the highly respected retired Court of Appeal Judge, Dato’ Mah Weng Kwai, moderating the discussion between two distinguished speakers: Haliza Aini Dato’ Othman, Deputy Head of International Affairs Division 1 of the Attorney General’s Chambers; and Locknie Hsu, Professor of Law at the Singapore Management University.
The session began with a slide presentation by Dr Johan Shamsuddin, Associate Professor at University of Malaya, on the ASEAN Legal Information Centre (“ASEAN LIC”), which is an online platform that will provide free, easy and meaningful access to the laws of the Southeast Asian countries. The initiative by the University
of Malaya, in partnership with MKMS Online Publishing, will be launched in January 2017.
The first speaker, Ms Haliza Aini, has led the negotiations of various free trade agreements between Malaysia and other regions. She gave the audience an insight into what has been achieved under the AEC 2015 Blueprint, and the targets and aims in the AEC 2025 Blueprint. She discussed the benefits of the harmonisation of trade laws in the ASEAN region, which includes increased business confidence if uncertainties are reduced by streamlining processes; better quality of services due to competition; and also reduced costs of doing business. The barriers to harmonisation of laws were also highlighted, which includes disparities in economic policies, labour laws, legal systems, education, as well as language obstacles; and limited access to information.
The second speaker was Ms Hsu, a specialist in international trade and investment law, dispute settlement mechanisms, as well as ASEAN integration.
She started her presentation by putting forward two ver y important questions to the audience: what is our role in the harmonisation of laws in ASEAN, and why are we trying to harmonise the laws?
There is vast potential and numerous opportunities for everyone in ASEAN. Lawyers find themselves advising clients in multi–jurisdictional transactions within the ASEAN market. Therefore, it is necessary for ASEAN lawyers to keep up with their clients as well.
The harmonisation of laws in ASEAN is not a task that should be left with just the policymakers. In Ms Hsu’s words: “We are in a world of disruptive information”. Thus, our challenge as lawyers within ASEAN is how to properly utilise the information so that we are better able to serve our clients.
In respect of the idea of introducing a regional court to resolve commercial disputes in ASEAN, Ms Hsu voiced her view that perhaps the more pertinent question is whether ASEAN is ready for such an approach. She suggested that the focus should be on looking into how the present landscape of courts and arbitral tribunals, among others, can be made more seamless.
A takeaway point from the session was that accessibility of information is one of the best ways forward towards the harmonisation of laws in ASEAN, and the ASEAN LIC is a step in the right direction.
This was a joint session with ASEAN Law Association.
Click here for more news about IMLC 2016.