China, India, Australia and Singapore Judges Launch Asian Business Law Institute

Singapore, 21 January 2016 – Four senior judges from China, India, Australia and Singapore today launched the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI) in a show of multi-jurisdictional support for an initiative to remove legal obstacles to cross-border business in the region.

The four judges – Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon from Singapore, his counterpart from Australia, Chief Justice Robert Shenton French, AC, Justice Zhang Yongjian, Senior Judge and Chief Judge of the Fourth Civil Division of The Supreme People’s Court (SPC), China, and Justice A K Sikri, Judge of the Supreme Court of India – jointly triggered a launch mechanism to unveil the ABLI logo before some 500 participants at the opening of a two-day conference on legal convergence in Asia.

The “Doing Business Across Asia: Legal Convergence in an Asian Century” conference organised by the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL), brings together senior judges, lawyers, CEOs, policy-makers and academics from the region.

In his opening address, CJ Menon, who is also the SAL’s President, said that while Europe has the European Legal Institute (ELI), the US, the American Law Institute (ALI), the ABLI breaks new ground by being the first institute of its kind in Asia.

“This was an idea that took shape after conversations with judicial colleagues from several jurisdictions which are well represented here today, most notably Australia, China and India,” CJ Menon said. “These exchanges suggested strong support for such a project.

“It was evident at this stage that to make meaningful progress towards the goal of convergence, there should be an organisation dedicated to collecting, studying, testing and implementing the ideas exchanged at such a conference. The organisation could also devise its own proposals to be fed into the intellectual mix to sustain and enrich the convergence conversation.”

The inaugural Board of Governors of the ABLI comprises the following, in alphabetical order:

From Australia
1. The Honourable Justice Robert French AC, Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia
2. The Honourable Justice Marilyn Warren AC, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria
3. Mr Kevin Lindgren AM QC, former Judge of the Federal Court of Australia

From China
4. The Honourable Justice Zhang Yongjian, Senior Judge, Chief Judge of the Fourth Civil Division, SPC
5. The Honourable Justice He Zhonglin, Senior Judge, Director General of International Department, SPC
6. The Honourable Justice Jiang Huiling, Senior Judge, Director of China Institute of Applied Jurisprudence, SPC

From India
7. The Honourable Justice A K Sikri, Judge of the Supreme Court of India
8. Mr Parag P Tripathy, Senior Advocate of the Supreme Court of India
9. Mr Rahul Singh, Professor of Law at the National Law School of India University

From Singapore
10. The Honourable Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon
11. The Honourable Mr V K Rajah, Attorney-General of Singapore
12. The Honourable Justice Andrew Phang Boon Leong, Judge of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Singapore
13. Professor Joseph Weiler, President of the European University Institute
14. Ms Lucy Reed, Director-Designate of the Centre for International Law of the National University of Singapore.

The Board will be supported by an Advisory Board whose membership will reflect a wide range of stakeholder interests. A unique feature of the ABLI, CJ Menon said, is its goal of promoting dialogue with the business community to guide the areas where the ABLI can make a difference. The Advisory Board is expected to be formed later this year.

A confluence of watershed developments – including the formation of the Asean Economic Community, China’s launch of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal - suggests “the integration of Asian markets will happen on a scale, and at a pace, not yet seen.”

CJ Menon added: “For us to capitalise on this monumental opportunity, it is imperative that our business laws keep up. This, I think, makes the launch of the ABLI, with its notably Asian focus, most timely. What this does is to cast a spotlight for the first time on the state of our business laws. With the heightened visibility and more sustained treatment given to the convergence of business laws in Asia, it is hoped that the ABLI will, in time, establish itself as a valuable partner in propelling us towards the more seamless conduct of transnational commerce.”

Beyond its core research-based project work, the ABLI will host an international conference on legal convergence on a biennial basis, organise regional workshops and seminars, and seek to establish partnerships with other regional and international institutions such as the ALI, the ELI, and UNCITRAL (United Nations Commission on International Trade Law) and promote its work to policy-makers.

CJ Menon proposed three projects that the ABLI could undertake in the first few years. One, harmonisation of the rules on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in Asia. This could take the form of a handbook, best practices guide, core text, a model law or a draft treaty. Two, the convergence of data privacy laws, and finally, a project to develop a document on Definitions, General Principles and Model Rules for contracts in cross-border transactions in Asia. Such a common reference frame could aid commercial parties from different legal systems to speak the same contractual language and structure agreements from a common understanding, he explained.

The ABLI will be funded by public and private sources and has already received support from the top tier corporations in the legal and business sectors. SAL has provided seed funding to get its secretariat up and running.

About Singapore Academy of Law
The Singapore Academy of Law (“the Academy”) is a promotion and development agency for Singapore’s legal industry, with the vision of making Singapore the legal hub of Asia.

The Academy aims to drive legal excellence through developing thought leadership, world class infrastructure and legal solutions. Its work focusses on building up the intellectual capital of the legal profession by enhancing legal knowledge, raising the international profile of Singapore law, promoting Singapore as a centre for dispute resolution and improving the efficiency of legal practice through continuing professional development and the use of technology.

As a body established by statute, the Academy also undertakes statutory functions such as stakeholding services and the appointment of Senior Counsel, Commissioners of Oath and Notaries Public.

The Academy is headed by Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon. The Academy has over 11,000 members comprising members of the Bench, the Bar, Legal Service Officers, corporate counsel, legal academics and foreign lawyers.

More information can be found at www.sal.org.sg.

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