Doing business in Asia: Your lawyer should be your anchor in winds of change

U.S. entrepreneurs doing business in Asia are well served to find legal counsel grounded in the law and custom of relevant countries.

It can be challenging for the average American businessperson interested in breaking into Asian markets to understand which countries to consider and how to begin an analysis that will lead to smart, informed decision making. Contributing to this uncertainty is the daily barrage of speculative news about trade-agreement negotiations and their particular brand of international and domestic political maneuvering, both here in the U.S. and in Asian countries.

Whether a U.S. business is considering a deal involving a major trading partner like China or Japan, or with any other Asian country, one of the first and most important decisions to make is the choice of legal counsel. It is essential to retain an experienced international business lawyer who understands not only the laws, policies and customs of the target country, but also the impact on commercial dealings of bilateral, regional and international treaties and agreements.

Of course, a U.S. attorney advising a business of any size or type in matters of international commerce must also be intimately familiar with the applicable state and federal laws at home, as well as the regulations and procedures of relevant government agencies.

The number and types of legal matters that can come up in international business dealings is broad and may include:

  • Protection of intellectual property like trademarks, patents, copyrights and trade secrets
  • Licensing agreements
  • Tax matters
  • Legal proceedings to protect commercial interests in U.S. state or federal courts or agencies, in foreign tribunals and pursuant to treaties and bilateral, regional or international trade or financial agreements
  • Labor, employment and immigration matters
  • Financial transactions involving multiple currencies and foreign banks
  • Import and export laws
  • Business formation
  • Contract negotiation, drafting and enforcement
  • Investment and funding
  • Shipping
  • Environmental regulation
  • Insurance matters
  • Mergers, acquisitions and joint ventures
  • Real estate and lease issues
  • And more

Solid legal counsel should provide practical guidance and legal advice in a business venture involving Asian interests. The lawyer's firm grasp of current law and practice will gird his or her international business clients in times of economic and political uncertainty.

For example, prominently in the current news is the long-negotiated, but not finalized, Trans-Pacific Partnership, a wide-ranging trade agreement involving 12 Pacific Rim nations, including the U.S, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam. The TPP if it took effect would greatly reduce both tariff and nontariff barriers to trade among member nations as well as impact matters of environmental concern, labor rights and working conditions.

Significantly, China is not one of the TPP nations, but the group has said it would be open to future expansion. Of course, political speculation is rife in the media, but one prominent Chinese academic says that China will "take a wait-and-see attitude," according to Forbes. China, for its part, is promoting its own proposal, the Free Trade Area of the Asia-Pacific.

The important take-away for the entrepreneur who wants to do business in Asia is that the business attorney he or she chooses should have an understanding of such international and regional developments in order to provide insight into their potential impact on clients' commercial endeavors.

From offices in Newport Beach, California, the international business attorneys at WHGC, P.L.C., serve individual and company clients throughout the state, nation and world in matters related to international commerce. WHGC has a strategic partnership with Dacheng Law Office in Beijing, China, to help provide support for U.S-China business clients.

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