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Clifford Chance senior partner Stuart Popham has said he expects UK law firms to have a presence in India within two years, as long as a free trade agreement with the EU is signed.
Popham said: “If I said 18 months I would probably be optimistic, if I said two and a half years I would be unduly pessimistic.”
He added that the prediction was dependant on India easing some of its current trading restrictions.
“If in six months’ time or 12 months’ time none of the restrictions on banking, on insurance, on legal services, on cross-border investment, if the free trade agreement with the EU hasn’t been signed, then I think there would be room to harbour doubts as to what it is going to take to pursue the Indian avowed policy of liberalisation,” he said.
Last December, an Indian court upheld a ruling prohibiting foreign firms establishing offices (19 December 2009), forcing Ashurst, Chadbourne & Parke and White & Case to close their liaison offices in the jurisdiction.
Clifford Chance is one of 31 foreign firms that could also be prevented from sending lawyers to India to provide advice if a move to extend the ban is approved by a court in Chennai next week.
Popham was speaking in New Delhi where he was part of a business delegation accompanying UK Prime Minister David Cameron on his first visit to the subcontinent since the general election (27 July 2010).