June,30,2015: The question whether foreign lawyers can be permitted to practice in India had been agitating Indian courts for the past two decades and it has now reached its finality.
With India emerging as a top destination for multinational companies and corporate disputes on the rise, foreign law firms had recently requested the Supreme Court that they should be allowed to operate in the country.
Appearing before a bench of Justices A R Dave and Kurian Joseph, some international law firms pleaded that restriction on their entry should be done away with and they should be allowed to practice in India.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for two American law firms,had told the bench that baring global law firms served no purpose in the era of globalization when there was no such restriction on MNCs to enter the domestic market.
Now the Centre will in a phased manner soon open up India’s non-litigious services and international arbitration legal services to foreign law firms.
The Centre will in a phased manner soon open up India’s non-litigious services and international arbitration legal services to foreign law firms. The proposal for the reform will be put up for approval in early July to a Committee of Secretaries after which it will be taken up by the Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“The Bar Council of India, which regulates the legal fraternity, and the Society of Indian Law Firms, which represents the interests of large law firms, have, in principle, agreed to the proposal. There is a need to bring in certain amount of competition in the sector. But the area of litigation will not be opened up, entities such as SILF were broadly converging on the idea that there was a need to open up the sector but in a calibrated fashion.” Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher told presspersons on Monday.
The government was keen on announcing the liberalised policy in January during the visit of U.S. President Barack Obama. However, the move was postponed after resistance from the domestic legal services industry.
After two years, India and the European Union will resume negotiations in August on the proposed Free Trade Agreement. “Both sides have agreed that negotiators must meet … The EU chief negotiator will be available for negotiations sometime in August,” he said.
Mr. Kher said the time to move on the proposed agreement was right as exports and imports with the EU were shrinking. “Textiles and leather sectors are taking a beating [in the EU markets]. So by reducing tariffs, you can get greater market access,” he said. India’s textile exports to the EU are about $3 billion a year.
The India-EU trade talks were launched in June 2007, but the agreement has missed several deadlines as the EU is not satisfied with India’s offers in areas such as government purchases, liberalisation in multi-brand retail, labour and environment-related norms and market access for automobiles and wines and spirits.
Centre seeking solution to WTO subsidy cap issue
Commerce Secretary Rajeev Kher told reporters here on Monday that India is striving to ensure that a permanent solution to the issue of the Centre’s minimum support prices to farmers breaching the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) permissible caps for subsidies is found by December 31.
Mr. Kher said that though India had already bagged immunity against action by other countries in case of breaches of the WTO caps, India still wants a permanent solution as only that will bring predictability and symmetry.
India is striving to get the issue included in the work programme for the next Ministerial meeting of the WTO scheduled to be held in December in Nairobi.
Ending months-long deadlock, the WTO’s General Council, the highest decision-making body of the organisation, had accepted India’s demand for extending the peace clause till a permanent solution is found for its food stockpiling issue.
This has enabled India to continue to procure and stock foodgrain for distribution to the poor under its food security programme without attracting action from WTO members even if it breaches the 10 per cent subsidy cap as prescribed by the multilateral trade body.
However, for a permanent solution to the food security issue, India’s stand has been that the WTO update the reference price of 1986-88 that is used in the formula for calculating the food subsidy cap or exempt schemes from the purview of subsidy caps.
Mr. Kher also said that India wants all the pending issue of Doha Round on the table at the Nairobi Ministerial.
The Doha Round of negotiations launched in 2001 has remained stalled since July 2008 due to differences between the rich and the developing nations mainly over subsidies given to farmers.
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