Revving the growth engine


India and UAE reap benefits of trade pact

On 1 May, on the first anniversary of the implementation of the India-United Arab Emirates (UAE) Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), the Indian commerce ministry enthusiastically called it a “growth engine” and attributed the surge in trade ties between the two countries to the agreement.

India had earlier signed two CEPAs with Korea and Japan in 2009 and 2011, respectively. The ethos of agreements such as CEPA lie in a mutually beneficial relationship.

Bilateral trade between India and the UAE grew 14% from USD67.5 billion to USD76.9 billion in the May 2022-March 2023 period since the signing of CEPA. Similarly, exports from India to the UAE grew almost 12% from USD28 billion to USD31 billion in 2022-23 in the same period.

May 2023
India Business Law Journal

Our Cover story takes a deep dive into the growth of trade between the countries, which have made the UAE India’s third-biggest trading partner and India the UAE’s second-largest trading partner. The key sectors from India that have contributed to this growth are mineral fuels, electrical machinery, gems and jewellery, automobiles and cosmetics.

The relationship has also moved beyond investments towards collaboration and knowledge sharing with the establishment of the India-UAE Start-Up Corridor established in May 2022 by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry and the Dubai International Financial Centre. There is also a mutual recognition of court judgments, which was a major challenge prior to 2020.

This month’s Spotlight focuses on the human side of the legal profession. Our story finds that law firms in Asia have consciously adopted certain changes to promote a work-life balance among employees by offering flexible work schedules. Additionally, the firms queried have prioritised pro bono work, emissions reduction, community engagement, ESG and sustainability, as well as employee well-being measures such as mental health workshops and parental leave support. The thought process behind these steps for the leadership is that if lawyers feel cared for, they are more likely to stay.

Our Intelligence report’s International A-List highlights the top India-focused lawyers at international law firms. The lawyers who are featured in our list are the key players at international firms for India-related deals and the ones most recommended by clients and peers. They have advised on several billion-dollar deals in the past year involving Ambuja Cement, Biocon Biologics, Reliance, HDFC and more.

This year holds particular significance for international lawyers that look at India given the Bar Council of India’s recent decision to allow foreign lawyers to practise in the country.

In a recent landmark decision in the UK this year, the country’s Advertising Standards Authority found oil and gas companies Shell, Repsol and Petronas guilty of misleading the public on the climate benefits of their products and banned them from running such advertisements. Given the pressing need for action on climate change, the desire for companies to position themselves as part of the solution rather than the problem can be tempting. However, Sunanda Bharti, law professor at Delhi University, writes in Vantage point that companies should be held to account when using trademarks that signal the green intentions of companies. Green trademarks indicate environmentally friendly goods or services, helping consumers make informed choices and supporting causes they believe in.

Companies use trademarks to differentiate themselves and gain a psychological advantage. However, the misuse of green trademarks, known as “greenwashing” is a concern.

To discourage this practice, Bharti suggests the establishment of a regulatory body within trademark registries and accept green trademarks only as certification marks with strict adherence to prescribed environmental standards. The existing legal framework pertaining to consumer protection and trademark laws can be enforced to deter companies and make them walk the talk.

Our What’s the deal? looks at the emerging area of fractional ownership platforms (FOPs), which promises retail investors a piece of the action in real estate projects. Fractional ownership in real estate through FOPs is considered an investment strategy that involves dividing and sharing the cost and income of acquiring real estate assets among multiple investors.

Its rising popularity prompted the Securities and Exchange Board of India to issue a consultation paper in May with a view to regulating the platforms.

Senior partner Amit Aggarwal and of counsel Devyani Dhawan at SNG & Partners highlight the different ownership models and structural issues facing this yet to be regulated area. The authors provide advice on issues investors will face with regards to due diligence and regulatory changes needed to accommodate this new investment model.