Chinese government procures legal services

Public sector procurement is a hugely important source of income for many businesses – particularly in China. In 2012, government procurement across China was worth RMB1.4trn (£142bn), accounting for 11 per cent of China’s fiscal expenditure. But until recently, law firms were not a major beneficiary of China’s public spending.

Last week’s news about the country’s Ministry of Commerce launching its first formal panel shows some signs of changes. Through a competitive public bidding process, the government body has appointed 20 international firms and 18 Chinese firms to the panel, which consists of two sub-lists – international investment, and World Trade Organisation (WTO) and regional trade agreement dispute resolution.

It is thought that the ministry, on behalf of many Chinese enterprises, spends tens of millions of US dollars each year on trade-related disputes in foreign jurisdictions, such as the US and EU. So a place on the new panel could prove lucrative for those 38 firms.

It is also a welcome development for the wider industry, blazing a trail for other government agencies to follow suit.

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