Doing Business in Asia: Introducing the Asia Desk Forum BY Victor V. RamRaj CAPI Law Chair
Over four spectacular spring days in April, the Fairmont Empress Hotel was abuzz with conversations and debates about the latest legal trends and developments in Asia and their implications for Canada and the Americas. Speakers and delegates from four continents—Chile, Colombia, the United States, Japan, South Korea, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Australia—came to Victoria by the dozens to attend the inaugural Asia Desk Forum. Hosted by the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI) with the support of the Faculty of Law, the Asia Desk Forum was conceived as a biennial event where lawyers, academics, government officials, civil society groups, and First Nations communities could gather to discuss the most pressing legal issues and the most important legal developments in Asia. The Asia Desk Forum was actualized in two parts. The first, the Asian Law Academy, consisted of six CPDaccredited workshops on cross-cultural legal skills, Japanese corporate law, doing business in India, international arbitration in Asia, and a lunch time talk on biculturalism and career development by CAPI’s Jarislowsky East Asia ( Japan) Chair, Mary Yoko Brannen. The second, the Asia Desk Forum Conference, included a full range of Davos-style plenary and parallel sessions on country- and region-specific topics and cross-cutting thematic issues. Our international delegates received a warm traditional welcome from the late Joyce Underwood, and Victor Underwood of the Tsawout First Nation, and from Clark Roberts, Assistant Deputy Minister in BC’s Ministry of International Trade and Asia-
Pacific Strategy. The tone for the Forum was set by a high-caliber keynote panel consisting of Eduardo Ramos-Gomez, the former Mexican ambassador to Singapore—now the Singapore-based Asian regional managing partner of the US law firm, Duane Morris; Bobby Majumder, the Dallas-based co-chair of Perkins Coie’s India practice; Annabel Short, the program director of the Business Human Rights Resource Centre based in New York and London (who was interviewed by Gregor Craigie on CBC Victoria’s
“On the Island” during the conference: Click to listen); and Yuen Pau Woo, the past president of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and current president of HQ Vancouver. The panel was expertly moderated by Professor Carrie Menkel-Meadow, a worldrenown expert on international dispute resolution based at the Georgetown University Law Centre and the University of California Irvine School of Law. The panelists set the agenda for three solid days of discussion with a tour-de-force of key themes ranging from the legal diversity and complexity of Asia to foreign investment and human rights activism, and
from to trans-Pacific trade law to state-guided economic development. The balance of the Asia Desk Forum canvassed a wide range of legal issues including the human rights and sustainability challenges facing businesses investing in Asia to the law and geopolitics of the South China Sea (a lunch time lecture by UVic’s Ted McDorman); and the legal and political framework for Asian investment in the energy sector in Canada, with a special focus on recent developments in Indigenous
The Forum keynote panel (L-R): Carrie Menkel-Meadow, Bobby Majumder, Eduardo Ramos-Gomez, Annabel Short, and Yuen Pau Woo.