Gowlings becomes third Canadian firm to launch in China

Canada’s Gowlings has opened a representative office in Beijing, becoming the third Canadian firm to land in China.

The Beijing office, which should receive its license from the Ministry of Justice in November, is headed by partner and chief representative Clark Roberts.

The launch, which sees Gowlings follow Canadian counterparts Blake Cassels & Graydon and Bennett Jones into China, marks the firm’s third foray into international markets. The firm already has offices in Moscow and London.

The news comes after Quebec premier Jean Charest’s recent trip to China. He was accompanied by a business delegation of 70 representatives from key sectors.

Gowlings chair and chief executive Scott Jolliffe noted that the increasing levels of activity between Canada and China over the past four years is the main driver for the firm’s move into China.

“More than 100 lawyers at our firm have been involved, one way or another, in relationships with Chinese companies, either representing them in Canada for acquiring Canadian companies or advising foreign companies investing in China,” said Jolliffe.

“In the last four years, the Canada-China relationship has stepped up and we’ve assisted quite a number of Chinese state-owned companies in M&A transactions in Canada, especially in the energy and natural resources sectors,” said Jolliffe. “We see a real need to be able to provide on-the-ground liaison, coordination and support through an office in Beijing.”

Most recently, the firm has advised CNOOC, China’s largest producer of offshore crude oil and natural gas, in its acquisition of OPTI Canada for $2.1bn. The lead partner on this transaction, David Lefebvre, is a renowned M&A lawyer in Canada who joined the firm in Feburary 2011 from Stikeman Elliott. He also played a key role in the $10.3bn Sinopec- Addax transaction, which is the largest outbound acquisition by a Chinese company.

In response to news of Gowlings’ launch, Blakes Beijing managing partner Robert Kwauk said: “Competition has always been and will always be there, regardless of how many firms actually establish an office in China. It’s clear that one can do China work and compete for it without having an office in China.”