EC urges Taiwan to relax rules

The European Commission is pressing for greater rights of access for foreign lawyers in Taiwan, as part of its negotiations over the country's accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The move is backed by the Law Society, which wants to see the strict regulations for foreign lawyers practising in Taiwan relaxed.

Although foreign lawyers can practise in Taiwan, they can only advise on their own national law and may not employ, or set up in partnership with, Taiwanese lawyers.

The EC, which is currently in talks with the Taiwanese authorities over accession to the WTO, is pressing for an end to these restrictions.

Taiwan applied to join the WTO in the late 1980s and it was rumoured that the country might be granted accession at the end of this month.

British officials said this was extremely unlikely but negotiations have been stepped up in recent months.

It is understood that the two sides are getting much closer to agreeing some form of deregulation of legal services.

The Law Society, which has lobbied the Taiwanese Ministry of Justice, the EC and the Department of Trade and Industry on the issue, welcomed the EC's move.

Karen Brewer, international relations officer at the society, said: “Although there are not any English law firms in Taiwan at present, that does not mean that there will not be in the future.

“We support liberalisation of legal services in Taiwan and throughout the world.

She added: “Lots of English firms have got business in Taiwan and it would be useful for them to have offices there.”