The UK’s trade deal with Australia – which promises to liberalize legal services – could serve as a stepping stone to a bloc of 11 countries with special arrangements to accommodate foreign lawyers, according to the Gazette.
The British government has officially started negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), whose current members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Importantly for lawyers, the Trans-Pacific Agreement includes an annex on professional services with clauses designed to facilitate the provision of cross-border legal services. Although regulators are not bound by the annex, it is expected to remove some of the barriers behind the borders that currently prevent UK lawyers from practicing abroad. More specifically, it encourages member countries to allow foreign lawyers to operate by air and to be fully integrated with domestic lawyers.
Bar Chairperson I. Stephanie Boyce said: “Membership in CPTPP will provide significant benefits to the UK service sector given the number of UK companies providing services in the Asia Pacific region, including law firms. lawyers, financial institutions and consulting firms. “
The UK is the first non-signatory to apply for membership in the CPTPP, so there is no precedent for how long negotiations will last. However, it is believed that the free trade agreement with Australia could make it easier for the UK to join.
The Department for International Trade announced an agreement in principle with Australia last month. The pact confirms and clarifies the right of British lawyers to practice under their British title in Australia, and vice versa. It also opens up opportunities for junior lawyers under the Youth Mobility Program, which will be available to nationals 35 years of age or younger for a total stay of up to three years. The obligation to undertake specific regional work – for example, on a farm – will be removed.
The Law Society is currently pushing for a forum for regulatory dialogue between UK and Australian bodies to tackle specific national barriers that could hamper cross-border practice.
The government wants to promote British legal services after Brexit. Last week he hosted a virtual conference with Middle Eastern countries to showcase the strength of British lawyers. At the same time, he said obstacles preventing British lawyers from practicing in India could be removed as part of a strengthened business partnership. Foreign lawyers are currently not licensed to practice in India and there is no re-qualification system for foreign lawyers.