Lovells gears up for competition in China

The introduction of China's new anti-monopoly law is prompting law firms to import competition specialists.
Lovells is sending one of its Brussels-based competition specialists to China to advise clients on the effects of its new anti-monopoly law, which comes into effect on August 1 after 14 years of talk.

It makes sense for firms to ship out lawyers from Brussels because China's new framework draws heavily on the European Commission's own competition law. Kirstie Nicholson will be based in Shanghai as part of Lovells' corporate team. Headed by Andrew McGinty, the practice is already busy helping clients to prepare their businesses ahead of the new law.

Under the present regime, restrictions apply only to foreign investors, so the introduction of a new competition framework could well represent a landmark change in China's transformation from a command economy to a free market û that is, if it applies equally to state-owned enterprises. However, as is often the case in China, it is still unclear exactly how the new law will work in practice.

"There are a lot of things that need to happen before domestic and overseas businesses get comfortable with the new system and how it will work," says McGinty. "Only time will tell whether the system will work in a completely fair, transparent and even-handed way. After this 14-year long march toward the putting in place of the new anti-monopoly system in China, the watchword may well remain: caveat investor."

In Brussels, Nicholson has worked on transactional and contentious competition law proceedings, including merger filings, Commission investigations and litigation before the European Courts.
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