I am delighted to be making my first visit to Kazakhstan, a country with which the U.K. has a rapidly growing bilateral relationship. It is also my first opportunity to see vibrant new Astana, much of which reflects the work of U.K. architects.
Following the British Prime Minister’s visit to Kazakhstan in 2013, trade deals worth £2 billion were signed. I want to see this level of interaction between our two countries continue, benefiting both our economies.
Last month during the visit of the Lord Mayor of the City of London, the British Embassy organised legal seminars in Almaty and Astana under the global U.K. government GREAT campaign. In cooperation with the British-Kazakh Law Association and the Law Society of England and Wales, U.K. and Kazakh experts shared with 100 Kazakh and international lawyers the best worldwide practice in corporate governance. The U.K. has long been a centre of international legal expertise, and in addition to my meetings with Kazakh ministers, I aim to enhance the relationship between our legal services industries during my visit.
There are already many positive and productive links between Kazakhstan and the U.K. in the legal sector, with a number of U.K. law firms operating in Almaty. Similarly I am delighted that respected Kazakh firms also have offices in London.
I also plan to discuss recent legal changes in Kazakhstan and progress on judicial co-operation with civil society representatives and government ministers.
We in the U.K. are proud of our international legal reputation. In February next year we will host the first Global Law Summit, an unrivalled international gathering which will discuss how rule of law is essential for economic growth as well as being the foundation for a strong and prosperous society.
This world-class event will draw on the U.K.’s legal expertise, which is based on our long history of freedom and justice, founded in the Magna Carta 800 years ago. It will also provide a platform where international legal professionals can hear from high-profile world experts and discuss issues like global commerce and dispute resolution.
English law, like the English language, is commonly used in global commerce and international dispute resolution, and London has long been recognised as a primary centre for international and commercial litigation and arbitration. Today, companies are twice as likely to choose English law over other governing laws for arbitration.
In addition, the U.K. allows virtually unrestricted access for foreign law firms. There are over 200 foreign law firms in the U.K. and many of these firms derive a large proportion of their overall turnover from business conducted in London.
Although known internationally as a financial centre, London is now as much a legal centre, with an unrivalled mix of judicial expertise in the fields of finance, business and property. As a consequence, doing business and resolving disputes in the U.K. is quicker and cheaper – saving businesses up to £1.4bn a year – but still resulting in cast-iron judgments that are respected around the world.
The U.K. is home to three of the largest five global 100 law firms, based on head-count.
Foreign businesses – including many from Kazakhstan – recognise the considerable strength of the U.K.’s legal services sector. For example, around 75% of the claims brought to England and Wales’ Commercial Court involve overseas parties.
The U.K.’s strength is based on the impartiality of its legal systems, the reliability and predictability of the law, the distinction and experience of its practitioners and the wide range of dispute resolution options available to clients.
Business comes to the U.K. because it knows that it will find world class, highly specialised, commercially focussed and innovative lawyers, mediators and arbitrators. It understands that a decision from a court in one of the U.K. jurisdictions carries a global guarantee of judicial excellence and integrity.
One of the reasons I am here in Kazakhstan is to say that the U.K. is open for business; we want to expand the relationship in our legal sectors and we want to share best practice with our partners around the world.
The author is the Minister of State for Civil Justice and Legal Policy for the UK Ministry of Justice.