Objects in mirror are closer than they appear
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine rages on, bringing human tragedy and pain. The war has tipped the delicate geopolitical balance that has ensured peace in much of Europe for decades.
While Asia may seem far from this geopolitical quagmire, it hasn’t been spared either, with the war’s ripples reaching its shores in the form of rapid inflation. The quick recovery from the pandemic and supply chain bottlenecks had triggered worries about inflation in the US, but Asia had been largely unaffected.
Things have changed quickly in Asia, though, with most big economies in the region seeing inflation readings surpassing forecasts. China, India, South Korea, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and even Japan face a double whammy – rising energy and food prices.
According to media reports, most central banks are likely to hike interest rates to control the price surge and strengthen weakening currencies. According to a report by Nikkei Asia, Japan has readied a USD48 billion package to ease inflation pain, including gasoline subsidies and low-rate loans to protect consumers and businesses.
Our Cover story, War of attrition, analyses the Russia-Ukraine conflict and its impact on the legal community. Most international law firms have been exiting Moscow. Many have been forced to close their offices in Ukraine, although some are digging in.
With Russian banks and businesses frozen out of the international banking system, many law firms and lawyers who had built up practices in Russia in the past couple of decades have had to make instant decisions on their future in the country.
As we detail, Asia-Pacific law firms are likely to be greatly affected. Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea have joined in actions against Moscow, while Singapore has issued separate sanctions.
With sanctions in place, compliance specialists are much in demand. For clients, a key question is which sanctions regimes and regulators are relevant to their business. Sanctions affect individuals, companies and government entities, keeping law firms on their toes.
Amid all the gloom, there are heartening tales that inspire us, and people who blaze trails. As we celebrated International Women’s Day on 8 March, we profile Asian women in law who have both led from the front and shown the way for young women joining the profession.
Asia Specific profiles lawyers from China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore and Vietnam. They have worked in academia, as general counsel, in litigation, arbitration, and in senior corporate roles.
These personal stories underscore the need for organisational, structural and cultural reform towards gender parity. Nevertheless, these accounts celebrate the joy these women hold for the law while showcasing their tenacity, professional excellence and vibrant personalities.
In Monkey business, we dive into a 190-page report by the Indian stock market regulator that exposed how Chitra Ramkrishna, the former managing director and CEO of the National Stock Exchange, presided over the bourse in a way perhaps best described as bizarre during her 44-month tenure. The scandal, comprising a mysterious Himalayan yogi, a “group operating officer” who had never worked in the securities market, and a board that looked the other way, shows that it takes only a few key individuals to tarnish even a hallowed institution. But, crucially, there’s redemption in embracing good governance.
The issue also packs practical advice from experts around the region, including a guide to the IP challenges in the metaverse from India’s LexOrbis; a commentary on cryptocurrency regulation in India from TMT Law Practice; and a primer on the Indonesian tax regime for digital finance. Our popular regional regulatory comparisons on M&A and trademarks also offer insights on trends across the region.
We also bring to you the Malaysia Law Firm Awards 2022, recognising the country’s best in the past year. We have identified four law firms proven to be the best of the best – and among them, Christopher & Lee Ong has risen to the top as Law Firm of the Year.
This issue also features our annual guide to the best corporate lawyers in Indonesia. The Indonesia A-List ranks the top 100 lawyers in the country relied on by businesses at home and abroad, as well as by international law firms.
Editor, Asia Business Law Journal
Managing Editor, Law.asia