Trans-Pacific trading bloc will break down barriers for legal services

UK accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific partnership (CPTPP) will improve market access for English and Welsh solicitors in the region covered by the agreement, the Law Society of England and Wales argued before the House of Lords on 10 March 2020.

In both written and oral evidence given to the International Agreements Sub-Committee, we highlighted the partnership’s strong potential to facilitate legal practice in countries across the region.

What this means for solicitors

The CPTPP is a trade agreement between Australia, Canada, Brunei, Peru, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and Vietnam.

It originally evolved from the Trans-Pacific partnership, an agreement which never entered into force due to the withdrawal of the USA.

The 11 signatories have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $13.5 trillion, or 13.4% of global GDP, and a total population of 500 million people.

Noting that many of the barriers to trade in legal services are 'behind the border', including domestic regulations around licensing, certification and requalification, we highlighted the benefits of the CPTPP’s unique mechanisms for addressing these ubiquitous issues.

Further, the CPTPP specifically encourages member countries to allow foreign lawyers to operate on a fly-in, fly-out basis and on a fully integrated basis with domestic lawyers.

The CPTPP’s Professional Services Annex, especially paragraphs 9 and 10, sets out a principles-based framework on legal services that is capable of supporting medium and long-term reform of the regulation of foreign lawyers and the legal services sector.

This is further enhanced by the creation of a professional services working group that supports the implementation of the framework across the jurisdictions.

We encouraged the government to make use of all these options in order to fully benefit from CPTPP membership.

We also highlighted the benefits of joining CPTPP more generally, especially as it covers the world’s third biggest trading area by GDP and is an immense engine of growth for the worldwide economy.

As the first non-Pacific state to seek accession, the UK is also uniquely placed to take advantage of what the region has to offer and strengthen existing bilateral relationships with founding members of CPTPP such as Australia and New Zealand.

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