THE integration of Asian markets will happen on a scale and at a pace not yet seen, and it is imperative that Asia's business laws keep up for it to capitalise on this monumental opportunity.
Chief Justice Sundaresh Menon made the point on Thursday morning at the legal convergence Asia conference where he launched the Asian Business Law Institute (ABLI).
Laying out the fundamentals of the ABLI, he said it will not be fuelled primarily by academic interests but be practice-oriented in nature.
The ABLI is an independent entity created under the Singapore Academy of Law (SAL) and its objective is to address matters of development and commercial concern by providing practical solutions that will appeal to both policymakers and legal practitioners, CJ Menon said.
The core of the ABLI's work will be to undertake original research into the business laws and policies of Asia and in turn, "common ground between different jurisdictions will be identified, points of departure teased out, and alternative avenues to achieve meaningful convergence carefully studied and proposed".
To ensure the institute is relevant, CJ Menon said it will undertake sustained outreach efforts to build a strong network of relevant stakeholders who can provide feedback.
To this end, the ABLI will host a biennial international conference on the convergence of Asian business laws as its anchor event, partner other regional and international institutions of such nature, and engage policymakers, among other things.
The ABLI will be steered by a Board of Governors, comprising at least 12 members from various countries.
The inaugural Board comprises 14 members from Singapore, China, India and Australia.
In his speech, CJ Menon outlined three possible projects of the insitute.
The first project is to harmonise rules on the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgements in the region.
The second is aimed at the convergence of data privacy laws, which CJ Menon said "is an area that is ripe for policy and legal review and reform".
The third project that the ABLI could undertake is to develop a document on definitions, general principles and model rules for contracts in cross-border transactions in Asia, he said, adding that such a common reference frame could function as a powerful tool to aid commercial parties from different legal systems to speak the same contractual language.
"The ABLI is a small step to forge common legal standards. If we are united and committed towards realising this vision, then we might one day look back with satisfaction that collectively we have played a useful role in truly making this the 'Asian Century'," CJ Menon said.
When CJ Menon mentioned "our business laws", he meant Asia's business laws and not Singapore's, as previously mentioned.