Demystifying China’s Legal Landscape with Luis Borja

In this episode, we sit down with Luis Borja, an Ecuadorian attorney-at-law with extensive experience in corporate, commercial, and information technology regulations, as well as China policies. He is currently a Partner at H&W Law Firms Group in Shanghai and an Associate at DeltaLegal Law Firm in Quito.

Luis has a strong background in Hispanic- Chinese comparative law and is passionate about integrating new technologies into the legal practice. His expertise extends to various areas of law, including trade, labor, business, contracts, investment, intellectual property, and more.

*The responses provided here have been rephrased for brevity and clarity. For the exact answers and a comprehensive understanding, we strongly recommend watching the full video podcast or tuning into the audio podcast.

Q: Can you share insights into your daily work as a lawyer based in Shanghai, managing roles at H&W Law Firms Group and Delta Legal in Quito?

A: My day typically starts early, considering the 13-hour time difference between Quito and Shanghai. Mornings are dedicated to meetings with clients from around the world, addressing their concerns and responding to emails. Afternoons involve consolidating information and devising solutions for clients in China. Evenings are spent connecting again to offer these solutions. The workload is intense but filled with interesting developments in the Latin America-China relationship.

Q: What sparked your interest in China, leading you to pursue a Master's of Law at Peking University?

A: Initially seeking a Master's in environmental law, I chose China due to its significant environmental challenges. During my time in Beijing, I realized the need for a deeper understanding of Chinese law in general. This led to a master's covering constitutional, administrative, and civil law, proving invaluable in navigating China's legal landscape.

Q: Could you share your journey into integrating technology into legal services?

A: After completing my Master's, I joined a Shenzhen-based company developing a technology-driven legal services platform. This role exposed me to the intersection of technology and legal services, particularly in areas like artificial intelligence and blockchain. The experience was pivotal in understanding the future impact of these technologies on legal practice globally.

Q: Managing legal affairs in Greater China involves navigating diverse regulations. How do you handle regulatory differences across various jurisdictions?

A: China's diversity, even within provinces and cities, presents challenges. Understanding a client's specific needs helps identify the most suitable city or jurisdiction, each with its regulations and incentives. Challenges include establishing companies, labor regulations, and document legalization. Staying updated on regulations is crucial, especially when clients present specific cases requiring in-depth knowledge of local practices and guarantees.

Q: What strategies do you employ to stay abreast of the dynamic legal landscape in China?

A: Daily updates on regulations are essential. I stay informed about ongoing discussions and changes. However, the real challenge arises when dealing with specific client cases. Adapting to the diverse legal landscape in China involves continuous learning and updating to provide effective solutions based on practical insights.

Q: How do you balance the nuances of legal practice and technology integration in your current roles?

A: Balancing legal practice and technology integration requires a deep understanding of both realms. While legal knowledge is vital for offering solutions, staying informed about emerging technologies ensures relevance and effectiveness. This dual expertise allows me to navigate the complexities of legal tech and provide comprehensive services to clients.

Q: Can you discuss the recent developments and trends in the LatAm region and Greater China, considering your role as an honorary advisor to the Mexican Chamber of Commerce in China?

A: The pandemic has led many companies to shift their operations, and Mexico, in particular, is emerging as a manufacturing powerhouse. Numerous businesses are relocating to Mexico, attracted by incentives and access to the North American market through treaties like the one between Mexico, Canada, and the United States. Chinese companies are also eyeing Latin America, creating a need for better understanding and collaboration between the two regions.

Q: What are some common legal issues faced by LatAm businesses in cross-border operations with China?

A: With the pandemic disrupting supply chains, many companies are moving their operations out of China. Mexico is becoming a key destination for manufacturing. Legal issues often revolve around contracts, especially concerning the closure of operations during the pandemic and the delivery of goods to Latin America. Discrepancies in contract translations, due to differences in legal terminology, can create challenges in arbitration or mediation.

Q: How do you observe the lack of knowledge on doing business between Latin America and China from both sides?

A: There's a mutual lack of understanding. Latin American companies face challenges in entering the Chinese market, including cultural differences and regulatory nuances. Similarly, Chinese companies lack knowledge about doing business in Latin America. The absence of training for companies entering new markets through free trade agreements contributes to these challenges.

Q: What cultural shocks have you observed, especially in negotiations between Chinese and Latin American companies?

A: A common observation is that companies may promise everything during negotiations, but due diligence is crucial. Auditing and investigation are necessary to uncover potential issues such as low capital, hidden lawsuits, or political instability. This applies to both Chinese and Latin American companies, and a lack of due diligence can lead to significant problems.

Q: How do your language skills in English, Chinese, and Spanish contribute to navigating legal matters in cross-border contexts?

A: Language skills are crucial, especially when dealing with contracts that designate Chinese as the primary language for dispute resolution. Discrepancies in translations can have significant legal implications. A deep understanding of legal terminology in all languages involved is essential for accurate interpretation and enforcement of contracts.

Q: In your experience, how has the integration of new technologies like AI and blockchain enhanced legal practice, and what potential do they hold for the future?

A: Artificial intelligence (AI) has seen recent developments, with technologies like ChatGPT generating comprehensive responses. However, it's essential to view AI as a tool, not a replacement for lawyers. AI can assist in summarizing legal documents, making the practice more efficient. Blockchain technology holds promise, especially in intellectual property. A blockchain system could provide an unchangeable, internationally recognized record for trademarks and patents, streamlining processes in the legal sector.

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