UK-GCC trade talks could open door for legal services

The UK has started free trade agreement (FTA) talks with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), with solicitors’ leaders hoping legal services will be a priority in discussions.
“We welcome the start of these trade negotiations, as an FTA between the UK and the GCC could create great opportunities for UK services and businesses,” said Law Society of England and Wales president I. Stephanie Boyce.

“Over 1,200 of our members are based in GCC countries, with the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Oman drawing significant interest from members and the wider business community.

“The negotiators will be faced with the challenge of handling significant commitments across the region in discussing a GCC-wide agreement. The different jurisdictions provide varying levels of market access and regulatory regimes for legal service providers.

“Understandably, there’s no uniform approach to systems of registration or licensing, nor establishment for law firms across the GCC and there are different mobility rights across the region for foreign individuals, given the distinct jurisdictions involved.

“While it’s possible for foreign firms to operate in most jurisdictions, the processes, related costs and language barrier mean that many firms feel they cannot compete on a level playing field with domestic firms in what is often an already saturated market.

“Foreign firms must also deal with administrative burdens such as restrictions in opening offices, a lack of recognition of professional qualifications between jurisdictions and difficulties in hiring (including visas).

“The Law Society believes that respect for the rule of law goes hand in hand with economic stability and prosperity.

“Trade, direct and indirect investment all benefit from the existence of adequate accountability mechanisms, the separation of powers, as well as an independent legal profession, including an independent judiciary.

“Human rights challenges do not necessarily mean that the UK should not trade with a particular country.

“However, as has been the UK government’s previous practice in other jurisdictions, where there are human rights challenges, any trade agreement between the UK and GCC should include an effective clause on the rule of law and protection of human rights.”

Notes to editors

Find out about the UK starting trade deal talks with the GCC

Read the Law Society’s response to the International Trade Select Committee inquiry on the agreement with the Gulf Cooperation Council

About the Law Society

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