The Practice of Law in ASEAN – Impact of Globalization and Technology

Samuel D. Bernal, JD, LLM, MBA, MD, PhD
ALA Philippines

ASEAN Economic Community and the Legal Profession

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) expects by 2015 to act as a single common market and production base. A fuller economic integration under the AEC could lead to increased flows of trade and investment within ASEAN and foreign direct investments from outside ASEAN. The member nations of ASEAN can benefit from positive changes in the country’s economic structure and create new jobs. In the Eighth Law Ministers Meeting in 2011, the Joint Communique enunciated these goals:

With the coming into force of the ASEAN Charter, the legal structure of ASEAN is envisioned to transform into a “rulesbased organization with appropriate legal and institutional frameworks/mechanisms in order to effectively support and facilitate the realization of the ASEAN objective of building an ASEAN Community by 2015.1

As such, the goals include the harmonization of ASEAN trade laws and the progressive liberalization of trans-national legal services in ASEAN.

Cross-border practice of law and Foreign Direct Investments – from within ASEAN and from outside ASEAN.

Indeed, transnational legal services would be critical in facilitating cross-border transactions within ASEAN. The goal of becoming a single market and production base can be enhanced by the liberalization of legal services. The free flow of goods and services would need to be supported by the necessary legal infrastructure through the freer establishment of law firms and movement of legal professionals across ASEAN.2

The AEC would also be a more attractive destination for Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) not only within ASEAN but from outside ASEAN. Most of these FDIs come from the European Union ($ 74.8 B), Japan ($ 57 B) and the USA ($ 24 B), as compiled from 2011 to 2013, presented in the ASEAN Foreign Direct Investment Statistics Database as of 1 June 2014 by the Working Group on International Investment Statistics (WGIIS).3 The current sectoral characteristics of ASEAN FDI reflect the preferences that direct investors have for manufacturing and services industries.

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1 Joint Communique of the Eighth ASEAN Law Ministers Meeting (ALAWMM), Phnom Penh, 04 November 2011. At http://www.asean.org/news/asean-statement-communiques/item/joint-communique-of-the-eighth-asean-lawministers-meeting-alawmm-phnom-penh-4-5-november-2011-2?category_id=26.

2 Pasha L. Hsieh. ASEAN’s liberalization of legal services: the Singapore case. 8 Asian J. WTO & Int’l Health L & Pol’y 483 2013.

3 ASEAN Foreign Direct Investment Statistics Database. At http://www.asean.org/images/resources/Statistics/2014/ForeignDirectInvestment/Aug/Table%2027.pdf.