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Gulf initiatives ‘need legal support’

Hong Kong, 30 April 2024: Deepening ties between Hong Kong and the Middle East are welcome but need to be cemented with closer legal co-operation, Colin Cohen has told radio listeners. Speaking on RTHK Radio 3’s Backchat, Colin has highlighted how Hong Kong’s common law is vastly different from the myriad legal systems used by Gulf nations and that much work lies ahead.

“At the moment we have no reciprocal arrangement regarding enforcement of judgments with any country in the Arab world,” said Colin, Senior Partner in BC&C. “What we do have is some agreements with regard to enforcing judgments under certain circumstances, that’s all. So, it’s not going to be easy.”

Welcoming last week’s signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia to strengthen their co-operation on issues relating to dispute avoidance and resolution, Colin told Backchat presenters Brian Wong and Mike Rowse: “It’s a start, but we are in the very early stages.”

The programme also considered Hong Kong’s ambitions to increase capital influx from the Middle East through establishing more family offices. In his first policy address in 2022, city leader John Lee set a goal to attract 200 new family offices by 2025 through offering tax concessions.

Colin remarked: “Family offices are a tradition here in Hong Kong but, in seeking investment from the Gulf region, we need to understand the differences in culture and outlook. If they are going to park their money here and use it for investment, then there is the prospect of legal work. If they simply plan to use Hong Kong as a low-tax jurisdiction, then we need to recognise that most of that money will be offshore. So, there is potential, but also difficulties ahead.”

Colin was joined on Backchat by ambassador Amr Elhenawy, former Egyptian Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau and founder of the Middle East and North Africa Chamber of Commerce. He told the programme that geopolitics had caused Hong Kong and mainland China to forge fresh alliances and find new business partners.

“We are embarking on a different world order which will require different business arrangements,” said Amr, who was a guest on BC&C’s Law & More podcast several months ago. The Radio 3 programme also featured contributions from Professor Kenneth Kwong, a specialist in family succession and entrepreneurial management.

Colin is a regular guest on Backchat, offering legal input on a range of hot topics. In the past year, he has commented on judges’ workloads, noise pollution issues and a Judiciary initiative to broadcast court hearings.

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