Posts tagged ‘Reuters’

May 23, 2011

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April 15, 2011

The ‘Clunking Fist’ bids for the IMF top job – not likely says British Chancellor

[Anne Smith, UK Politics Contributor]

MailOnline: It is a well-known secret that the ‘Clunking Fist’, also known as ex-Prime Minister of England, Gordon Brown, is pushing hard for the top job at the IMF.

A tad bored with getting internet access to all kids in Africa (for no salary), he is reported to be drooling at the chops for a crack at the £270,000 per year (thank you very much) IMF post. Following moments, which could only be described by the sane as ones of pure lunacy, this week at a conference of chief policymakers at Bretton Woods in New Hampshire, the birthplace of the IMF, Mr Brown had come up as best choice for the post after his intense levering to get it.

In recent times in the USA, Mr. Brown, the man who oversaw the collapse of the largest bank in the world – the RBS and the reduction of the British economy  to a poor neighbour of what it used to be,  has been putting himself about to be a top international statesman in media circles.

However, Mr. Brown is likely to be disappointed with the result of his bid for the post as the UK government and its Chancellor are saying that they will veto any moves to get him into the job, because he is simply not up to it. Furthermore, they are saying that with his track record of spectacular failure as an economist, it would be an insult to the British people for him to be in charge of anything to do with money, or any kind of economy for that matter.

Analysts are saying that with this kind of negative heat from the British government, Mr. Brown’s bid is sure to fail and are suggesting that he might consider going the way of Lord Mandelson – join the EU as a commissioner and take things from there to stage his comeback to front-line British, or world politics.
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April 11, 2011

European business and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments in China


[Dr. Edward Lestrade, Law Contributor, first published in European Newsletter, Thomson/ Reuters, October 2008]

The states of the European Union (‘EU’) comprise China’s biggest commercial partner and trade between it and the EU states is continuing upward. However, recent times have brought about an increasing  number  of  commercial  cross-border  disputes  between  the  Chinese  business  domiciles and traders in the EU states.  As such, this commentary is to give business people and lawyers an overview of the recognition and enforcement of the judgments of EU states/ foreign courts by Chinese courts.  The commentary also looks at the relative risks and the issues involved for EU traders in judgments enforcement in China.

EU Trade with China – opportunities and issues

According  to  the  China’s People  Newspaper,  since  2004,  the  EU  has  been  China’s  biggest commercial partner. Furthermore, the EU regards China as its second biggest trading partner which, coincidentally, enjoys the fastest growing export market in the world.  The importance of China for the  EU  is  borne  out  by  it  being  the  EU’s  most  significant  source  of  technology  imports  and  an important source of foreign  direct  investment.  In  2007,  bilateral  trade  between  China  and  the European Union reached 356.15 billion USD which represents increases of more than 20 percent per annum since 2003.

The  increasing  incidence  global  trade  and the  massive  growth  of  EU  investments  and  trade  with China have brought about a corresponding increase in cross-border litigations involving EU states’ foreign  judgments  upon  Chinese  domiciles.

Many  of  these  cross-border  disputes  are  decided  by arbitration in accordance with the New York Convention, to which most EU countries and China are  signatories.  However,  even  though  agreements  have  arbitration  clauses,  a  local  (Chinese)  national court may still have to deal with questions concerning the extent of their coverage. In that respect,  increasingly,  for  foreign  parties  engaged  in  disputes  with  Chinese  domiciles,  a  major problem is to secure the recognition and enforcement of an EU court’s decision by a Chinese court in respect of distress upon assets located and held in China. The main reason for the problem is that China has signed only a few treaties concerning judicial-assistance/ recognition and enforcement of foreign  court  judgments  and  does  not  otherwise  readily  recognize  such  judgments.  Therefore  for foreign parties wishing to claim against Chinese domiciles, commencing proceedings in a foreign court/  their  home  court  would  not  appear  to  be  good  decision  especially  where  the  assets  of  the Chinese  party  are  located  in  China.  However,  ever  where a  Chinese court  grants  recognition and enforcement  of  a  foreign  court’s  decision,  there  would  still  be  severe  hurdles  to  overcome  to achieve the actual recovery of the judgment debt – these are addressed later on in this article.

Generally, due to the above factors, the enforcement of foreign judgments in China appears to have been  very  difficult  in  the  past  few  years.    Corruption/  transparency  issues,  inadequate,  or  non-existent statistics on the matters and the absence of a case-reporting system in China has made it  even more difficult for foreigners to appreciate the scale of the risks upon them in dispute scenarios involving foreign judgments upon Chinese parties.

From  the  informal  reports  of  lawyers  and  business  people  involved  in  disputes  with  Chinese domicles, it would seem that a significant number of judgments (including domestic ones) are never enforced.  The factors affecting this appear to be:-

1)  a judiciary that is not independent and aspects of state interference in the judicial process;
2)  the  nature  of  protectionism  in  China  –  the  prevalence  of  the  State’s  involvement  in commercial undertakings;
3)  inefficient judgment enforcement/ collection systems;
4)  lack  of  understanding  of  foreign  legal  systems  by  Chinese  courts.  For  example,  EU judgment  creditors  would  be  unwise  to  take  for  granted  that  Chinese  law protects  their interests in the same manner as EU law.  The reality is that most will face an unreceptive, or uninformed Chinese  court  when  applying  for  recognition  of  the  EU  state’s  judgment  in China.  It  would  be  quite  customary  for  the  Chinese  court  to  decide  that  there  was  no personal jurisdiction over the judgment debtor and/ or that the compensation awarded by the
foreign court was excessive.

Chinese Foreign Judgments Enforcement Law and Application Procedure

Foreign judgments enforcement law in China is principally governed by its Law of Civil Procedure (‘CPL’), Ch.XXIX of which the principal Articles are: 267,268 and 269.

By  Art.267  a  legally  effective  judgment  or  ruling  made  by  a  foreign  court  requires  the  Chinese court to recognise and effect it. Applications for enforcement may be made by an applicant direct to a relevant intermediate people’s court, or by a foreign court according to treaty requirements, or on the basis of reciprocity.

Art.268 provides that applications that do not contradict Chinese law, or its sovereignty, security, social and public interests will be recognised and validated for enforcement in China.

Art.269  covers  the  general  principles  for  the  recognition  of  foreign  arbitral  awards  which  have similar  provisions  to  Art.268.    In  addition  to  the  provisions  of  the  CPL,  the  recognition  and enforcement of foreign judgments are also governed by its Supreme People’s Court’s Opinion on the Application  of  the  Civil  Procedure  Law  of  the  People’s  Republic  of  China  (‘Opinion  on  CPL’) which guides lower courts on enforcement matters.

In accordance with Arts.267 and 268 of the CPL generally, applications are normally initiated in an intermediary court where the judgment debtor has a permanent residence, or where their assets are located. But, there is no clear guidance on this procedure by either the CPL, or the Opinion on the CPL.

By  Art.318  of  the  Opinion  on  CPL,  where  there  is  a  common  international  treaty  in  place  by  the People’s  Republic  of  China  and  country  of  the  foreign  court,  or  where  the  principle  of  reciprocity between  these  two  countries  exists,  the  application  for  recognition  and  enforcement  of  the  foreign judgment  must  be  directed  to  the  intermediate  court  of  the  People’s  Republic  of  China  which has jurisdiction over the case. In the alternative, diplomatic channels must be used for the applications, or the  applicant  can  apply  to  the  relevant  intermediary  court  for  case  to  be  started  afresh  and  then  the intermediary court will decide on the merits in accordance with Chinese law. Where neither treaty, nor reciprocity  aspects  are  present,  diplomatic  channels  fail  and  the  applicant does not pursue the restarting of the  case  in  the  relevant  intermediary  court,  the  application  will  be  rejected  by  the intermediary court.

General Grounds for Refusal of Enforcement

The foreign judgment will be normally refused by the Chinese court where:-

1) Recognition and enforcement of the foreign judgment would cause harm to Chinese sovereignty, security,  and/or  public  policy.  Neither  the  CPL  nor  the  Opinion  on  CPL,  defines  “security”  or “public  policy.”  However,  there  have  been  no  studies  that  have  indicated  that  this  provision  has been used unfairly by the Chinese courts in respect of foreign judgment enforcement matters;
2)  Where  the  intermediary court  considers  that the foreign judgment  is made by an incompetent foreign court as judged under relevant international treaties and local laws;
3) The foreign judgment is ineffective under the law of the foreign country;
4) The defendant was not properly served;
5)  A  judgment  of  a  Chinese  court  is  in  effect,  or  process  concerning  the  same  cause  of  action
between the parties.

Chinese Execution of Foreign Judgments

For the foreign creditor’s judgment to be enforced by the Chinese intermediary court, the judgment must be deemed by that court to have been given by a competent foreign court. That is to say, a foreign  court  that  had  proper  jurisdiction  over  the  proceedings  involving  the  Chinese  judgment debtor.

China  is  a  civil  law  country  which  follows  the  same  pattern  of  legal  systems  obtaining  in  most European Union states. However, due to the ascendency of European Union law in respect to the national laws of the EU states which process involves many facets unfamiliar to a pure civil systems (eg., the precedentiary and overriding legal effect of decisions of EU courts/ EU primary law, etc., aspects of a common law system (bearing in mind the memberships of the countries of the United Kingdom),  familiarity  on  the  part  of  the  Chinese  court  cannot  be  assumed.  As  such  a  long, comprehensive and tedious presentation may be need to be made to the Chinese court to explain why  it  should accept  that  the  system  of  law  obtaining  in the  EU  would give  an  EU  state’s  court competency to decide  the matter.

Generally,  for  the  foreign  applicant,  the  CPL’s  Ch.2  (2)  “Territorial  Jurisdiction,”  sets  out  some rules  concerning  jurisdiction  and  forum,  but  does  not  give  complete  guidance  on  the  matter. However,  by  the  CPL’s  Art.24  up  to  Art.33,  generally,  a  Chinese  court  will  accept  personal jurisdiction over a foreign party who is a Chinese domicile, or foreign country resident, where the defendant is a Chinese domicile. Where an applicant brings proceedings in a forum other than the defendant’s  domicile  or  residence,  the  Chinese  court  will  look  for  some  connection  between  the dispute and the forum and if there is none, will be likely to reject the application.

Enforcement/ Collection of Judgment Debts in China

Foreign judgments tend to be executed in the same way as domestic judgments as this aspect is not specifically covered by the CPL, or the Opinion of CPL. Execution Officers, operating under the administrative processes established by the courts as part of the enforcement regime, are principally responsible for the enforcements/ collections. As such, they send notices of execution etc., ordering judgment debtors to comply with the judgment.

Non-compliance after the specified time results in the intermediary court compelling the required compliance which can be achieved as follows:-

1)  Execution  officers  may  direct  inquiries  to  the  debtors’  bank  and  freeze  and  transfer  the balance of the bank accounts;
2)  The   Execution   Officers   may   also   garnish   the   debtors’   income,   or   confiscate   and subsequently  auction  the  judgment  debtors’  assets,  bar  certain  exemptions  (eg.,  basic personal items).  However, by the CPL and Opinion on CPL, any judgment, or the start of the execution process does not establish any charge, or lien on the judgment debtor’s assets.
3)  Penalties are also levied on the judgment debtors in accordance with the CPL where money is  not  paid  up  voluntarily  in  the  specified  time  of  the  intermediary  court’s  order  of enforcement. These penalties are normally double the accrued interest of the unpaid amount.

The time limit to apply for execution of a domestic judgment is normally one year. It is six months for matters between commercial enterprises and those time limits are usually non-negotiable from the intermediary court’s perspective. The CPL and Opinion on CPL does not provide for time limits for foreign judgment enforcement applications and it can be taken that the same rules that apply for domestic judgments obtain for foreign judgments.

Generally, the Chinese legal system provides very little help in enabling the collection of judgment debts where a foreign judgment is recognised and ordered for enforcement by it. For example, no assistance by the court is given to the process in terms of assisting the collection of the judgment debts by enabling searches, etc. for the assets of the judgment debtor. Applicants and their lawyers are  effectively  locked  out  of  the  judgment  enforcement/  collection  process  which  is  essentially court-driven. The Chinese judge or the execution officer is exclusively authorised by law in respect of  the  serving  of  notices,  identifying  and  locating  the  judgment  debtor’s  property  and  distressing
such property.

The  problem  in  respect  of  enforcement/  collection  in  China  is  further  compounded  by  execution officers  and  the  courts  being  often  impeded  in  the  carrying  out  of  their  responsibilities  by  high workloads, lack of money and resources, poor working conditions and also the lack of economic, or other  incentives  to  do  their  work  efficiently.  Despite  that,  judgment  creditors  or  their  lawyers, without specific permission of the Chinese court, which is not normally given, have no legal right to take  any  action  outside  those  taken  by  the  execution  officer  and  the  Chinese  court  to  pursue  the judgment debt.

In  particular,  there  are  no  provisions  under  Chinese  law  for  fraudulent  conveyance.  So  where  a judgment debtor sells off assets so as to frustrate the collection process, nothing as such can be done by  the  applicant,  or  their  lawyers.  Secondly,  the  aspect  of  the  ‘piercing  of  the  corporate  veil’ whereby the foreign judgment creditor could pursue others, such as a parent company, or those who may be using a business entity as a shield to perform illegal, or fraudulent activities. As such the collection of judgment debts is tortuous processes which in many cases end up with the judgment debtor having spent considerable sums to get the judgment awards and then ending up with nothing
in their pocket to show for that.

Futures

China,  as  an  important  trading  nation  for  the  EU,  needs  to  empower  its  courts  and  laws  to  provide adequate protection for its trading partners. It needs to establish a judgment debt collection regime that will give its trading partners more confidence in dealing with Chinese traders by allowing them more rights  to  pursue  those  involved  in  fraudulent  trading  where  they  have  been  negatively  affected.

Its failure to  do  so,  allows  a  situation  that is  likely  to  get  seriously  out  of hand  and  create  unsustainable trading relations with the EU in the long run.

Generally, it is not sufficient for the state to have laws that permit the execution or punishment of those guilty  of  criminal  conduct  which  result  in  trading  losses  for  foreign  traders.  Foreign  traders  want confidence that if they lose money by bad deals with Chinese traders and are awarded compensation by a court under due process, they will be entitled to realistic and effective assistance of the Chinese courts so as to achieve their compensatory awards awarded properly by a competent court in their home state. Such a regime  will  also  send  a  serious  deterrent  message  to  fraudulent,  or  non-conforming  traders  that  their defaults not only harm them in the long run, but do  major harm to Chinese as a major emerging and important world trading nation.

Although  China  has  agreed  with  some  EU  countries,  such  as  France  and  Romania  for  the  mutual recognition  and  enforcement  of  judgment  by  way  of  ‘judicial  assistance’  treaties,  the  essence  of  the problem is realistic enforcement – collection of the judgment debt. That is the essential matter which it needs to deal with right now.

Currently, the situation is unsatisfactory as a Chinese defaulting trader can dissipate  assets  to  avoid  the  judgment  debt  with  no  redress  available  for  the  EU  applicant  trader/ judgment creditor.

The  process  towards  legal  modernisation  of  the  foreign  judgment  recognition,  enforcement  and collection regime in China has started though and bearing in mind China’s world trading ambitions, is likely to continue at a brisk pace. For example, China has now acceded to the Hague Convention on the Service  Abroad  of  Judicial  and  Extrajudicial  Documents  in  Civil  or  Commercial  Matters.  The convention  though,  does  not  involve  recognition  and  enforcement  of  foreign  judgments,  however,  it gives  an  excellent  boost  to  its  enforcement  regime  for  the  enforcement  of  foreign  judgments  as  it permits the serving of process concerning foreign judgments on relevant Chinese domiciles which is an important part of the recognition of foreign judgments process in China. Secondly, China is a member of  Hague  Private  International  Law  Conference  and  is  currently  participating  in  the  drafting  of  the Convention  on  Jurisdiction  and  Enforcement  of  Foreign  Judgments  in  Civil  and  Commercial  Matters which  is  projected  to  become  effective  soon.  This  convention  when  effected  and  if  accepted  by  the major trading nations will establish a uniform and efficient way for the recognition and enforcement of the commercial judgments in the contracting states.

[This article is based on the law and regulatory scene obtaining in 2008. It is not intended to provide legal advice and should not be relied upon as such]

February 9, 2011

Congratulations, Anna Sergijenko, MCIoJ

Contributing Editor & Moderator of International Times of Dominica, Anna Sergijenko, 23, has been admitted as a professional member (‘MCIoJ’) of the UK’s prestigious Chartered Institute of Journalists.  She is also a member of the UK Press Agency.

The Chartered Institute of Journalists is the oldest organisation of its kind in the world. It was established in 1884 as the Association of Journalists until it received a Royal Charter in 1890 and then was constituted as the Institute of Journalists. One hundred years later the Institute was given a supplemental Royal Charter and became the Chartered Institute of Journalists. It has been protecting and serving the interests of journalists worldwide for over 120 years.

Russian-born Anna, speaks 5 languages (French, German, Russian, English and Latvian) and gained a law degree from the University of Latvia and is authorised to practice law in Latvia.

She also works as a freelance contributing editor for Reuters and legal consultant for international firms and is currently undertaking studies leading to qualifications in Common Law.   She is also Registrar of the Online International Arbitration Court.

Well done Anna!