Tricks of the trade


Our first investment guide targets Japan in-house counsel

The UN Conference on Trade and Development’s (UNCTAD) estimates on global trade and foreign direct investment (FDI) make for a telling tale. Data for 2020 indicate an 8% decline in trade growth, with the second quarter of 2020 showing a more than 20% year-on-year decline. The UN agency reports that global FDI in 2020 collapsed 42% year on year to an estimated US$859 billion compared with the US$1.5 trillion the previous year.

 ABLJ2102_cover-01While the sharp declines in these numbers are almost exclusively due to the pandemic, UNCTAD reckons the “effects will linger” in 2021, too, but hopes that the figures will go back to 2019 levels. However, the silver lining in all these gloomy statistics has been the resilience of the East Asian countries, both in foreign investment and trade. As the UN agency notes: “While no developing country or region has been spared from the decline in international trade during 2020, trade trends for the East Asian region are generally better. This trend is even more evident for Q3 2020, as East Asian exports turned positive on a year-over-year basis.”

Even with global FDI, it was Japan, the world’s largest outbound investor for three years running, that helped prop up the numbers. With about US$100 billion in outbound FDI for the first three quarters of the year, according to Bank of Japan data, Japan remained the biggest international investor, though a massive decline from the US$227 billion it invested in 2019.

The slowdown in trade and investment and the about 5% fall in global GDP also have opened up opportunities for discerning investors. It is in many ways a buyers’ market as valuation expectations have lowered and there is considerable demand for quality investors, both among businesses and governments.

It is in this context we bring you our first investment guide – Japan Outbound Investment Guide. This collaborative supplement, in association with the Japan In-House Lawyers Association (JILA), brings insights from regional legal experts in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. Our guide features 19 articles written by some of the best law firms in 16 countries, tackling the most pressing issues in their respective markets. This handy reckoner for Japanese in-house counsel lays out the opportunities and pitfalls in investing abroad.

A representative list of countries covered includes developed Western markets like the US and Germany; emerging Asian countries like India, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines; Middle Eastern centres like the UAE and Israel; and attractive African destinations like Nigeria, Angola and Senegal, among others.

In our Asia-Specific feature, Devil in the Data, we take a close look at the evolution of data privacy regulation across the Asia-Pacific. There is much activity on the legislative front in the region, with many jurisdictions trying to keep pace with advances in technology as well as developments elsewhere. We evaluate existing laws, ones in the works, and amendments proposed.

In the past two years, we have had frantic activity around this area, with China’s draft Personal Information Protection Law, Indonesia’s draft Personal Data Protection (PDP) Bill, India’s Data Protection Bill, Vietnam’s draft decree on personal data protection, and Thailand’s first Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA), which takes effect on 31 May. Meanwhile, Japan has amended its Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI), and South Korea has amended its three major data privacy laws covering personal data, networks, and credit information. Singapore and Hong Kong are also updating their data laws with amendment proposals underway.

In our Intelligence Report, we discuss the impact of reforms in China’s intellectual property laws. China’s top-down reforms of its Copyrights Law and Patent Law include major judicial and legislative changes, solving problems that have affected enterprises for decades. But do the changes go far enough?

This issue also features the Asia Business Law Directory of Thailand law firms.

Best wishes,

Mithun Varkey
Editor, Asia Business Law Journal
Managing Editor,