A CHAT WITH FRANCE'S AMBASSADOR TO SINGAPORE HE MARC ABENSOUR
France’s Ambassador to Singapore His Excellency Marc Abensour speaks to the Singapore Academy of Law about collaboration between the two countries' legal systems, in anticipation of next week’s webinar on Civil Law and Asian Cross-Border Transactions. Limited slots for the webinar are available here.
What benefits do collaborations like the one between SAILS and SAL bring?
Next week’s webinar is held in the frame of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that was signed between the Singapore Academy of Law and the University of Paris Panthéon-Assas, which operates in Singapore since 2012 via its local branch called "Sorbonne-Assas International Law School" (SAILS). This important new collaboration was made public during the first France-Singapore Legal Symposium that was held in January. Organised under the auspices of the Chief Justice and the French Embassy in Singapore, this fruitful symposium gathered key stakeholders of our legal ecosystems and sparked new collaborations in the legal field.
As shown during the Symposium, France and Singapore represent two legal systems that are different but complementary and, most of all, promote economic development. France is the cradle of the culture of civil law and its widespread civil law tradition has contributed to the development of modern international arbitration. Singapore is a well-known hub for legal services, unanimously recognised for the quality and independence of its legal system and expertise in international mediation, arbitration and the protection of intellectual property rights common law. Our objective is to develop more synergies between these two hubs.
There is a growing need to train Singaporean lawyers and give them basic knowledge on civil law systems. We know how useful comparative law is in conflict of laws, for the interpretation of treaties as well as for those who are involved in international adjudication, arbitration, or administration. One should recall that civil law is the most widespread system of law in the world, in force in various forms in about 150 countries, including 13 of the 20 largest world economies. To speak only of ASEAN, 6 out of 10 countries (Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam) are civil law countries. In addition Indonesia, the 4th most populated country in the world, has adopted the French contract law.
Through this ambitious MoU, SAL and SAILS are launching a series of short executive seminars with the primary focus on hands-on approach to civil law. Next week’s seminar is a concrete illustration of our common wish to promote the knowledge and practice of civil law in this part of the world. The webinar will tackle the specific civil law concepts in cross-border and financial transactions. The objective is to better understand the legal and contractual mechanisms like “force majeure” notion.
Last month’s signing of the Agreement on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters between Singapore and France marks Singapore’s first bilateral mutual legal assistance treaty with a country that has a civil law system. What does this say about the legal ties between Singapore and France?
This agreement, which is also Singapore’s first bilateral treaty with a civil law system country, reflects the high level of trust between our countries and the quality of our bilateral relations in the fight against transnational crime. It is also worth mentioning that it is Singapore’s first mutual legal assistance treaty signed since 2005.
Our judicial systems (magistrates, prosecutors through the international criminal assistance office of the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, investigating services) already cooperate closely on mutual assistance requests through regular exchanges on issues relating to counter-terrorism, cybercrime, homeland security amongst many others. The negotiations, which have been under way over several years, will considerably improve the effectiveness of judicial cooperation in criminal matters between France and Singapore, which is a shared concern and priority.
The agreement will also increase the efficiency of our mutual legal assistance by establishing an effective and stable framework that will benefit the legal practitioners. It will now be possible, for example, to hold hearings by video-conference, to conduct investigations into bank accounts or to provide for the most appropriate use of confiscated proceeds in the course of criminal investigations, returning them to their rightful owners or allocating them to the victims in compensation for the loss they suffered. These are very important steps.
How do you reckon these ties can be deepened in the coming decade?
Both being financial and powerful legal centres, Paris and Singapore are positioning themselves as regional gateways to foster the development of economic exchanges between Europe and Asia. France is the second-largest economy in the EU and Singapore a hub at the heart of Southeast Asia. The economic relations between France and Singapore are dense and diversified. Promoting a better collaboration between our two countries and their legal systems is crucial in this regard.
Beyond next week's seminar and fruitful collaboration between SAL and SAILS, I would like to express the wish that new paths of collaboration move forward:
- Among two of our lawyers’ associations - the Law Society of Singapore and Paris Bar Association which has recently set up, here in Singapore, a specific committee that was launched in the sidelines of our Legal Symposium. The cooperation agreement of the two associations will facilitate exchanges of information between our countries on the practice of legal profession, in terms of ethics, vocational training,. It is crucial for our lawyers to better understand laws, judicial systems and the legal context of our countries. Useful professional and personal contacts will be settled in areas pertaining to the defence of common interests in the legal profession and will promote cooperation and actions benefiting the defence of the rule of law, human rights and the independence of the judiciary and lawyers. And I would like to pay tribute here to the French legal community based in Singapore, which is a driving force.
- In the same spirit, I hope that we can further explore the possibility for more French lawyers to plead before the Singapore International Commercial Court (SICC), thanks to the continued support of Singapore’s Chief Justice. I am also hopeful that the SICC and the International Commercial Chamber of the Paris Court of Appeal strengthen their collaboration with a new agreement. Both their presidents had very fruitful discussions last January
- In the academic field too, the exchange of student lawyers and junior lawyers should be a priority. And I’m happy to know that the Paris Bar will offer the possibility for young Singaporean lawyers to participate in training programs and internships (international Program run by the Paris Bar Association since 1991), on a reciprocal basis. Also, Paris Assas University has initiated fruitful discussions with the two major law faculties of Singapore (NUS and SMU).
- Finally, given our strong cooperation in innovation, legal tech is a promising field and a priority for Singapore. We can indeed capitalise on the success of the France-Singapore Year of Innovation to develop bridges between our respective ecosystems and eventually support innovation and acceleration projects for start-ups. This has been done in other business sectors with the support of the French Tech community in Singapore, which is very dynamic and well integrated into the Singapore ecosystem. The discussions initiated between FLIP - Future Law Innovation Program of the SAL and French partners such as France Digital and Paris Bar Incubator look very promising and pave the way for new collaboration in legal tech between our two countries.
What do you hope practitioners from both sides will gain from the “Civil Law and Asian Cross-Border Transactions” webinar on August 25?
I hope that the attendees will get a better knowledge of the legal and contractual mechanisms in civil law, including dispute resolution mechanisms and practical issues faced by contractors in public-private partnerships. I am also hopeful that this seminar will encourage more regular interactions between the practitioners of our two countries and give them a better understanding of our two legal systems.
I would like first to express my gratitude to our friends and partners at SAL for organising this first webinar, together with SAILS. This is the first concrete illustration of one of the outcomes or the first Singapore-France Legal Symposium that was organised last January under the auspices of the Chief Justice, the Ministry of Law, the Law Society, SAL and the French legal ecosystem (French Ministry of Justice, Bar of Paris, French lawyers).
I look forward to more seminars on civil law in the near future and to the development of new opportunities for our lawyers and practitioners such as new training or diploma in international finance or business law.
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