Private law and regulatory frameworks impacting on consumer protection are being reformed in many parts of Asia, the world economy's fastest-growing region. This development is important for Australian exporters and outbound investors, as well as policy-makers engaged over 2016 in a five-yearly review of the Australian Consumer Law. [My Submission to that inquiry is here - Download file]

This symposium on 10 August 2016, hosted by the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS) with support from the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), brings together experts from around the Asian region to outline and compare reform initiatives achieved or underway in consumer law as well as contract law more generally. [On 12 August at UNSW, ANJeL is also supporting a symposium on "Democracy, Pacificism & Constitutional Change: Amending Article 9?": the draft program is here - Download file.]

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement was signed in February 2016 by 12 Asia-Pacific economies that already account for 40% of world GDP, including the United States, Japan and Australia. If ratified, economists model significant economic growth prospects, especially for smaller and/or less developed member states, with a considerable impetus coming from greater cross-border investment. Further economic benefits are expected if others join the existing signatories, with expressions of interest already coming from leaders in several Asian states.

However, whether the treaty will be ratified and come into force remains unclear, partly because of some ongoing opposition to the TPP’s investment chapter provisions even within existing signatories, for example from some quarters within Australia (and, to a lesser extent, Japan). One focus of criticism is the extra option of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), aimed at more credibly enforcing the substantive protections and liberalisation commitments of host states. My paper for a conference on FTAs in Melbourne on 19 May 2016, (at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2767996 and outlined below) assesses such concerns.

A version will also be presented at the Institute for Southeast Asian Studies in Singapore on 5 August, for their interdisciplinary project on the impact of the TPP in the region. In addition, on 4 August I will present a broader paper on "Rebalancing Investment Treaties and Investor-State Arbitration in Asia and Australia" at the SMU workshop on "Regulation and Investment Disputes: Asian Perspectives".

The pros and cons of ISDS nowadays will be further addressed in another joint research conference and book project with Chulalongkorn University, funded by its ASEAN Studies Centre, at a conference in Bangkok on 18 July that compares the experiences and debates over treaty-based ISDS as well as contract-based investment arbitration across all ten ASEAN member states (including current TPP signatories, and potential additional ones like Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines). The draft program and speakers are listed below.

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[Reproduced from https://elgarblog.com/2015/05/28/japanese-law-the-hero-by-leon-wolff/; based on our co-edited book published last year, Who Rules Japan? Popular Participation in the Japanese Legal Process]

The legal system in Japan is undergoing substantial change. Associate Professor Leon Wolff argues that for all its faults, these changes represent a shift of power away from elites towards giving the people a say on policy decisions.

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PROJECT SUMMARY
This project (funded for 2014-6) will evaluate the economic and legal risks associated with the Australian Government’s current policy on investor-state dispute settlement through multidisciplinary research, namely econometric modeling, empirical research through stakeholder surveys and interviews, as well as critical analysis of case law, treaties and regulatory approaches. The aim of this project is to identify optimal methods of investor-state dispute prevention, avoidance and resolution that efficiently cater to inbound and outbound investors as well as Australia as a whole. The goal is to promote a positive climate for investment inflows and outflows, while maintaining Australia's ability to take sovereign decisions on matters of public policy.

PROGRESS OF PROJECT
For the econometric study of the impact of ISDS on FDI inflows, CI Armstrong has completed the literature review, data assembly and coding, producing preliminary results. These have been incorporated into a paper jointly with CI Nottage on “Mixing Methodologies” for an Oslo University “Pluricourts” program book project. CI Nottage, plus CI Trakman, have completed numerous semi-structured and informal interviews on stakeholders involved or interested in international investment dispute resolution and given many public lectures individually and sometimes jointly, nationally and internationally. Drawing on interim project findings, Nottage has also provided evidence and submissions for several parliamentary inquiries since 2014 (including on 19 February 2016 for the JSCOT inquiry into ratifying the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA, based on three recent postings on this Blog), as well as media commentary. CI Kurtz has also given many presentations drawing on his analysis of arbitral jurisprudence and commentary. All this has already generated many research publications, listed below (updating from April 2015 here).

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Happy New Year of the Monkey! I am also pleased to report that two new books will be forthcoming.

One is co-edited by Chulalongkorn University Law Faculty (and immediate past Dean) Prof Sakda Thanitcul, who like me studied for an LLD at Kyoto University (but, unlike myself, persevered and obtained the degree there, as well as another PhD from the University of Washington). Entitled "ASEAN Product Liability and Consumer Product Safety Law", this volume adds the editors' introduction plus two other general chapters to ten country reports presented and discussed at a major international conference held late July 2015 in Bangkok, funded by Chulalongkorn University's ASEAN Studies Centre and hosted at Thailand's Ministry of Commerce facilities. Thanks also to publication support from the Centre as well as the Sydney Southeast Asian Centre (SSEAC), complimentary copies of the English version will be distributed to delegates at the 2nd ASEAN Consumer Protection conference, also being held in Bangkok over 14-15 December (see here for my co-authored volume of Policy Digests & Case Studies for that conference, and Volume 1 tabled at the 1st conference in Hanoi a year earlier). In addition, the book will be translated and published in Thai in early 2016, through Thailand's leading legal publisher (Winyuchon), to reach a broader audience at reasonable cost. With priority to national and international regulators and NGOs, other complimentary copies of the English version are available on request, to assist in the important and ongoing task of harmonising and strengthening consumer law and enforcement, amidst major trade and investment liberalisation initiatives underway in the region - including now the Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA. The editors' introductory chapter is also freely downloadable via SSRN.com, and Prof Sakda will be visiting the University of Sydney in late July 2016 thanks to further support from SSEAC. Bios for all contributors to this book are listed below.*

Southeast Asia has long been known as a particularly dynamic part of the global economy. In 2007 the leaders of the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations further agreed to accelerate the project to complete a single market or “ASEAN Economic Community” by the end of 2015. Less well known is that their blueprint also committed to improve and harmonise consumer law, to prevent a "regulatory race to the bottom". A new Committee has encouraged member states to enact strict product liability regimes (as in Australia, Japan and the EU) aimed at making it easier for consumers (and sometimes even businesses) to be compensated for harms suffered from unsafe products. ASEAN states have also introduced new or revised laws allowing regulators to set mandatory safety standards before products are put into circulation, and to enforce post-market controls such as bans and recalls of unsafe products.

The second new book is on "Independent Directors in Asia", co-edited for Cambridge University Press with ANJeL stalwarts Profs Harald Baum (MPI Hamburg), Souichirou Kozuka (Gakushuin, Tokyo) and Dan Puchniak (NUS). As previously mentioned on this Blog, contributions have been extensively workshopped at major conferences in Berlin and then Singapore, as well as by individual authors in other forums. A longer version of the chapter comparing Australia, which I co-authored with Fady Aoun, is also forthcoming in early 2016 from the University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review. Core aspects of corporate governance in Asia provides essential backdrop to firms' dealings with consumers as well as their cross-border engagement facilitated nowadays through FTAs.

* LIST OF CONTRIBUTORS to the ASEAN Product Liability and Consumer Product Safety book:

RIZA BUDITOMO

Riza Buditomo is an Associate Partner in the Corporate & Securities practice group of Hadiputranto, Hadinoto and Partners (member firm of Baker & McKenzie). He graduated from the University of Indonesia with a B.A. Law in 2004, and Accounting Diploma in 2002. With an educational background in accounting and tax as well as law, Riza focuses on corporate/commercial, trade and tax work. This includes consumer protection, export/import, food industry, and anti-dumping issues. He has also been involved in several due diligence projects for acquisitions and mergers, drafting legal due diligence reports, providing various types of legal advice and assisting major clients in a number of high profile transactions. Riza is admitted in Indonesian Courts including the Tax Court. Riza is also a certified customs consultant.

RUMONDANG SARI DEWI

Rumondang Sari Dewi is an Associate in the Corporate & Securities practice group of Hadiputranto, Hadinoto and Partners. She graduated from the University of Padjadjaran with a B.A. Law in 2009. She has been involved in assisting and advising clients in various corporate and trade matters. She also has experience assisting clients in dealing with government authorities on licenses and approvals.

SORNPHETH DOUANGDY

Sornpheth Douangdy is Associate Director in charge of both legal and tax services at PricewaterhouseCoopers (Lao) Company Limited. Prior to working at PricewaterhouseCoopers, he was the Deputy Head of the Law Research Division in the Law research and International Cooperation Institute and the Ministry of Justice in Lao; Deputy Head of the Law Research Division in the Law Research Centre at the Ministry of Justice; a member of the Civil Law Working Group to prepare the Civil law Textbook and to amend Contract Law, Tort Law, and Law on Economic Arbitration Organisation; a lecturer in Intellectual Property Law at the Law Colleges; the co-ordinator of Ministry of Justice to the UNODC; a member of the secretariat team to implement the UN Convention against Corruption; and a judge of Saysettha Court, Vientiane. Sornpheth holds a bachelor degree from the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the National University of Laos, and a post-graduate Business Law and Commercial Law degree from Curtin University of Technology, Australia.

GERAINT HOWELLS

Geraint Howells is Chair Professor of Commercial Law and Dean of the Law School at City University of Hong Kong; barrister at Gough Square Chambers, London (though not currently practising) and former President of the International Association of Consumer Law. He previously held chairs at Sheffield, Lancaster and Manchester and has been head of law schools at Lancaster and Manchester. His books include Comparative Product Liability, Consumer Product Safety, Consumer Protection Law, EC Consumer Law, Product Liability, European Fair Trading Law, Handbook of Research on International Consumer Law and The Tobacco Challenge. He has undertaken extensive consultancy work for the EU and UK government as well as for NGOs.

JOCELYN KELLAM

Dr Jocelyn Kellam has a particular interest in product liability in the Asia Pacific. Previously a partner with one of Australia’s national law firms and an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Sydney she holds a PhD (USydney) and LLM (Tuebingen) in comparative product liability law. Jocelyn is the general editor of a comparative text, Product Liability in the Asia Pacific (Federation Press, 3rd ed 2009), and the former general editor of the Australian Product Liability Reporter.

KHIN MAR YEE

Khin Mar Yee (LLB, LLM, PhD) is Professor and Head of the Department of Law, University of Yangon. Her teaching and research interests include international trade law, intellectual property law and the Law of the Sea.

JOHN KING

John E King is a partner in Tilleke & Gibbins, heading the firm’s Cambodia practice in Phnom Penh. He is supported by a strong team of local Khmer advisors and the international expertise of the firm’s offices across Southeast Asia to provide advice that is tailored to the franchising, life sciences, and technology sectors. John previously led the firm’s Dispute Resolution Department for several years, and he played a central role in building Tilleke & Gibbins’ Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offices, where he served as managing director from 2007 to 2010.

John is a US-licensed attorney, and a founding member of the Thailand branch of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. He earned his Juris Doctor (JD) with high distinction (magna cum laude and Order of the Coif) from the University of Minnesota, and he practiced banking and finance law at Leonard, Street & Deinard, a leading U.S. law firm, prior to joining Tilleke & Gibbins.

DYAN DANIKA LIM

Dyan Danika Lim (BS, JD) specialises in energy, gas, oil, telecommunications & public utilities litigation and alternative dispute resolution with a particular interest in domestic and international arbitration and cross border litigation. She also handles product liability cases. She is currently an Associate Solicitor at the Office of the Solicitor General of the Philippines and a Professor at the De La Salle University, College of Law. Prior to joining the government, she worked as a Senior Associate at the Litigation and Dispute Resolution department of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices. She is a member of the UP Women Lawyer’s Circle and the Young International Arbitration Group.

LIM CHEE WEE

Chee Wee graduated from the University of New South Wales in Australia with LLB and BComm (Accounting) degrees. He was called to the Malaysian Bar as an Advocate and Solicitor in the High Court of Malaya in 1993 and started practising in SKRINE, where he became a partner in 2001. Chee Wee is the immediate past president of the Malaysian Bar.

Chee Wee has a broad commercial practice. He also has an established public and administrative law practice, having regularly advised and acted as Counsel for the Malaysian stock exchange and another regulator. His other areas of practice encompass banking, construction and engineering, land law, reinsurance, trusts and partnership disputes. He is listed in various international legal directories as a leading individual for dispute resolution.

LY TAYSENG

Managing Director of HBS Law, Attorney-at-law and Member of the Council of Jurists of the Council of Ministers of the Royal Government of Cambodia

NG HUI MIN

Ng Hui Min is a partner in Rodyk & Davidson LLP’s Litigation & Arbitration Practice Group. Hui Min graduated from National University of Singapore in 2006 and was admitted to the Singapore Bar as an Advocate & Solicitor in Singapore in May 2007. Hui Min is effectively bilingual in English and Chinese, and her main areas of practice encompass commercial litigation, corporate and investment disputes litigation, insolvency cases and employment disputes. She represents and advises companies and individuals on a wide array of commercial issues including commodities disputes, international sale of goods, directors’ duties, and shareholders’ disputes.

In her practice, Hui Min has represented companies on contractual disputes in the oil and gas industry as well as in the commodities industry where she has dealt with issues ranging from breach of warranty to claims under guarantees. Hui Min has also acted for companies in international arbitrations with respect to claims associated with international trade including commodities disputes. Hui Min has also acted for a variety of clients in employment matters, and possesses particular expertise in the area of confidentiality and restrictive covenants. In her insolvency practice, Hui Min has advised and acted for shareholders of companies where she has dealt with issues which include directors’ breach of fiduciary duties and deadlock between directors leading to a winding up of companies.

LUKE NOTTAGE

Dr Luke Nottage specialises in contract law, consumer product safety law, corporate governance and international arbitration, with a particular interest in the Asia-Pacific region. He is Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School, founding Co-Director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (sydney.edu.au/law/anjel), and Associate Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS). Luke’s 11 books include International Arbitration in Australia (Federation Press, 2010), and Foreign Investment and Dispute Resolution Law and Practice in Asia (Routledge, 2011). He is an ACICA Special Associate and founding member of the Rules drafting committee, the Australasian Forum for International Arbitration council’s Japan Representative, and on the panel of arbitrators for the BAC, JCAA, KCAB and KLRCA. Luke has also consulted for law firms world-wide, ASEAN, the EC, OECD, UNCTAD, UNDP and the Japanese government, and is Managing Director of Japanese Law Links Pty Ltd (www.japaneselawlinks.com).

COLIN ONG

Dr Colin Ong is a practising member of the Brunei, English and Singapore Bars. He has acted as arbitrator or as counsel in many commercial and investment arbitrations under most major rules of arbitration governed under Civil and Common Law. He is a Chartered Arbitrator and a Master of the Bench of the Inner Temple. He is or has been a Visiting Professor at various universities, including the University of Hong Kong; Universitas Indonesia; King’s College (University of London); University of Malaya; Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia; Universitas Indonesia; Queen Mary (University of London); Padjadjaran University (Indonesia); and National University of Singapore. He is the author of several arbitration and law books and is an editorial board member of various legal journals including Arbitration (CIArb); Business Law International; Butterworths Journal of International Banking & Financial Law; Dispute Resolution International; and Maritime Risk International.

He currently holds various positions including President, Arbitration Association Brunei Darussalam; Advisory Board, BANI (Indonesia); Board, Cambodia National Commercial Arbitration Centre; Advisor to China-ASEAN Legal Research Center; ICC Commission on Arbitration; and ICCA-Queen Mary Task Force (Costs and Security for Costs). He was a Former Principal Legal Consultant, ASEAN Centre for Energy; Panel Member (Brunei Darussalam nominee) of the ASEAN Protocol on Enhanced Dispute Settlement Mechanism; and Former Vice President of the LCIA (Asia-Pacific Users’ Committee).

PATRICIA-ANN T PRODIGALIDAD

Patricia-Ann T Prodigalidad (BS, LLB, LLM) is a Partner of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department of Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices (ACCRALAW). Ms Prodigalidad specializes primarily in commercial litigation (intra-corporate disputes; banking, investments and securities litigation; corporate rehabilitation and insolvency) and criminal matters relating to corporate activity (including white collar and other business-related crimes; anti-money laundering; anti-corruption and other FCPA issues), with particular focus on cross-border issues. She likewise practices extensively in the fields of international commercial and construction arbitration as well as product liability and antitrust litigation. Ms Prodigalidad also acts as an arbitrator in international commercial and domestic arbitration, both institutional and ad hoc. In 2013, Ms Prodigalidad passed the Fédéracion Internationale Des Ingénieurs-Conseils [FIDIC] Dispute Board Adjudicator Assessment Workshop sponsored by FIDIC and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency and was one of four (4) Philippine delegates accredited as a dispute board adjudicator. Leveraging on her science degree, Ms. Prodigalidad has successfully handled environmental law cases.

Ms Prodigalidad, a prolific author, obtained her Bachelor of Laws degree from the University of the Philippines, cum laude, graduating class salutatorian. She then topped (ranked 1st in) the 1996 Philippine Bar Examinations. In 2004, she obtained her master’s degree in law from the Harvard Law School. Ms. Prodigalidad is a member of various professional domestic and international organizations and serves as trustee of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center, Inc, the UP Women Lawyers’ Circle and Harvard Law School Alumni Association. She is currently the National Secretary of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the countrywide organization of all lawyers in the Philippines.

LAWRENCE TEH

Lawrence Teh is a partner in Rodyk & Davidson LLP’s Litigation & Arbitration Practice Group. Lawrence advises clients and acts as an advocate in all areas of commercial law and appears regularly as leading counsel in the Singapore Courts, in arbitration and in other forms of dispute resolution. He is also appointed regularly as an arbitrator in international disputes. He has particular experience in international trade and commodities, maritime and aviation, banking and financial services, onshore and offshore construction, mergers acquisitions joint ventures and other investments, and insurance in related fields.

Lawrence is currently the Chairman of the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Committee at The Law Society of Singapore. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Arbitrators, and a panel arbitrator at the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. He chaired the committee that drafted the Law Society Arbitration Rules and is a panel arbitrator of the Law Society Arbitration Scheme. Recently, he was appointed the Administrator of the Comite Maritime International (CMI) in 2013, and Chairman of the Promotion Committee of the Singapore Chamber of Maritime Arbitration (SCMA). He is also a Council Member of the Legal Practice Division in the International Bar Association (IBA). He is named in numerous legal guides and directories including the Asia Pacific Legal 500, International Who’s Who for Commercial Litigation, International Who’s Who of Shipping & Maritime, Asialaw Leading Lawyers for Shipping, Maritime & Aviation and on the Guide to the World’s Leading Aviation Lawyers.

SAKDA THANITCUL

Dr Sakda Thanitcul is Professor of Law at the Faculty of Law, Chulalongkorn University, in Bangkok. He earned his LLB from Chulalongkorn University, LLM and PhD (Law) from University of Washington School of Law and also LLM and LLD from Kyoto University. He was a member of the advisory team to the chief negotiators of the US-Thailand FTA and the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement. His recent publications include “Thailand
(co-author with R. Ian McEwin) in Mark Williams (ed), The Political Economy of Competition Law in Asia (Hart Publishing, 2011), pp 279-291, “Thailand” (co-author with R Ian McEwin) in Mark Williams (ed.), The Political Economy of Competition Law in Asia (Edward Elgar, 2013), pp 251-282, “Compulsory licensing of chronic disease pharmaceuticals in Thailand” (co-author with Matthew L Braslow), (2014) 37(3) Thai Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences 106-120.

TU NGOC TRINH

Tu Ngoc Trinh is a licensed attorney in Vietnam and a member of the Tilleke & Gibbins corporate & commercial team in the firm’s Hanoi office. Her practice focuses on the life sciences sector as well as general corporate matters including company formation, employment, franchise activities, commercial transactions, and mergers and acquisitions. Tu is committed to helping her clients achieve sustainable success in Vietnam. She is a member of the Hanoi Bar Association and the Vietnam Bar Federation.

No, I’m not referring to the presence or otherwise of something like MSG (monosodium glutamate) in the daily food intake of the remarkably long-lived Japanese people! Rather, this brief posting will highlight a fascinating and insightful recent article by Kyoto University Professor Shotaro Hamamoto about treaty-based Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) as an additional option typically provided for foreign investors seeking to enforce substantive treaty commitments offered by host states, alongside inter-state arbitration. Professor Hamamoto is a world-renowned international law expert, and it was a great learning experience to collaborate with him on a project some years ago where we reverse-engineered both the substantive and procedural provisions of Japan’s investment treaties.

His recent article, for a JWIT special issue on “Dawn of an Asian Century in International Investment Law?”, is entitled: “Recent Anti-ISDS Discourse in the Japanese Diet: A Dressed Up But Glaring Hypocrisy”. The analysis is important and timely given the question of whether and how the expanded Transpacific Partnership (TPP) Agreement will be ratified and brought into force across the present 12 economies, including Japan, the US and Australia. One focus of public debate remains the TPP’s inclusion of ISDS-backed investment commitments (now outlined by the Australian government here, and earlier subjected to my preliminary analysis here), along with some broader doubts about the overall benefits of FTAs generally (as I discussed on a panel with economists and a journalist at a recent Lowy Institute seminar).

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by: Luke Nottage and Leon Trakman

[A shorter version of this also appears today under a different title on The Conversation blog.]

Alongside this week’s APEC leaders’ summit in Manila, US President Obama met with counterparts and trade ministers from 11 other Asia-Pacific states that agreed in October to the expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement. These states, covering around 40 percent of world GDP, cannot sign it before 3 February, when the US Congress finishes its 90-day review. But Obama and others in Manila reiterated the importance of the TPP for regional and indeed global economic integration.

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Japanese Law in Asia-Pacific Socio-Economic Context
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