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Feature Story: Meet China’s Leading Multinational Law Firm, Dialogue with Manuel Torres, Garrigues
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Meet China’s Leading Multinational Law Firm

Dialogue with Manuel Torres, Garrigues


By Tracy Hall


When it comes to practicing corporate law in the Middle Kingdom, no organisation has had as much experience or enjoys as much of a superlative reputation as Garrigues. The world renowned Spanish conglomerate, which is currently headquartered in Shanghai but serves the entire China-based business community, has operated in the country for over two decades. To say this firm knows the Chinese legal system inside out is an understatement.


WBT201511_060_Dialogue_005_-_ManuelWhat’s more, they have been at the forefront of the country’s thriving economy. Amongst other things, they have helped to promote FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) from Europe to China. Earlier this month our editorial team met up with Manuel Torres, the company’s Managing Director for China, to find out more about this incredible law firm.


Please could you start by giving our readers a brief insight into your organisation?


Garrigues is an international legal and tax services firm that provides business law advice on the main economic scenarios of the global marketplace. Since its creation in 1941, the organisation has been recognised for its international outlook and innovative nature. Our team is made up of two thousand people from twenty different countries, who, under a single integrated management team and with the same quality standards, operate in twelve countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa.


All Garrigues lawyers share the same hallmarks: empathy with the client, ongoing dedication to understanding client needs and strict compliance with ethical standards. These qualities, together with their broad experience, training and availability, make us one of the most prestigious and professional law firms in the industry. Garrigues is one of the largest international law firms and is among the top 100 most important law firms worldwide. Its team of experts provides business law advice on the most relevant and complex transactions on the market. We are present in the world’s leading economic powerhouses, with offices not only in Spain and Portugal, but also in London, New York and Brussels, as well as in China, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Poland and Morocco.


How did the move into the Chinese market come about back in 1992?


WBT201511_060_Dialogue_002_-_IMG_1380Following the Open Door Policy of Deng Xiaoping’s government, foreign companies started to become interested in the Chinese market and started to identify it as a good location for the process of ‘decentralisation’, taking into account the small degree of existing pressure coming from the labour costs and the relationship between US dollar and yuan, and the favourable atmosphere for foreign investment. We started to support them in every step of the setting-up process, including the ways in which they could invest with local partners.


During that time we would often travel with our clients to China, with the purpose of assisting them in all their operations, but we realised that advice from within China was needed, and so we made the decision to open our very own office. In 2005, we became the first Spanish law firm to obtain a permit from the Chinese Ministry of Justice to open an office in Shanghai. In recent years we opened a second office in Beijing.


It is clear that your operations in Shanghai were a success. What prompted the move to Beijing, as opposed to other big industrial cities?


Moving to the capital was a very logical step for us. The aim behind the opening of our Beijing office is to better serve our existing clients in Beijing and to capitalise on the opportunity for further growth by serving new multinational clients based in the city. It will also enable us to raise our profile and strengthen our ties with Chinese institutions — whose role in the business sphere is paramount — and to create a bridge between Chinese investors located anywhere in the country and our Latin American practice.


More broadly, the opening of the Beijing office marks another milestone in the consolidation of Garrigues’ status as an international firm, reinforcing its expansion by establishing an operating presence in one of the most important cities in the world.


Other than your company’s unparalleled experience in the Chinese market, what gives you the edge over your local and international competitors?


We have two offices with more than 23 local lawyers, which allow us to fulfil the needs of all of our clients across different sectors. Our team at Garrigues China advises a large number of leading companies in sectors as diverse as real estate, automotive, banking and finance, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, renewable energies, retail trade and the manufacturing industry (textiles, furniture, footwear and so on).


Our business model centres on building an elite team of professionals who are keen to adopt the Garrigues corporate culture. One of our main features is our diverse points of view, which allow us to anticipate problems and facilitate solutions to complicated problems.


In what ways can Garrigues help foreign companies establish themselves within the Chinese market?


We have experience in dealing with different administrations involved in the process of constituting a new commercial organisation, such as the Ministry of Commerce, AIC, and the NDRC. On top of that we offer services all over China, from the capital city and Tianjin to Shanghai and the other major industrial hubs in the south of China. We also have a strong presence in Chengdu, Chongqing and Xinjiang province, where we are assisting a major joint venture that will boost the area’s agricultural products and increase foreign investment.


What can you tell us about your organisation’s role in promoting investment ties between China and Latin America?


WBT201511_060_Dialogue_001-_HighlightWe are creating a bridge between China and Latin-America with the purpose of helping Chinese companies settle in and do business within this increasingly important region. For us, Latin-America is a natural market because of the language (Spanish), culture and a very familiar set of legal frameworks. We aim to increase outbound investment by making our Chinese investors feel more comfortable when getting involved in the booming Latin American economies.


On the whole, would you say it is becoming easier or more difficult for foreign companies to invest and operate in China?


It depends which other countries you are willing to compare the Chinese market to. I will tell the foreign companies that are willing to come here the same as I tell all my clients: “China and simply in the same sentence is not possible.” This is a complex market with unique challenges but it is one in which the so-called ‘rule of law’ is increasing day by day. It is becoming more and more open for trade with the international community. In doing so, it will inevitably have to implement changes that will make it a more attractive global business and investment hub.


WBT201511_060_Dialogue_003_-_IMG_2340Where do you see the most demand for your services coming from in the future?


While we are still at the forefront of the foreign investment market, nowadays we are focusing much more of our resources on supporting Chinese companies – both private and state-owned – to invest abroad. We have realised that when a Chinese company goes international, they always need legal and tax advice. What’s more, the agreements reached between Beijing and countries of the CELAC have made Latin-America a main object for Chinese companies. Our strong presence in Spain, Portugal and the booming Latin-American markets puts us in a great position to attract more clients going forward.


Thank you for attending the interview. Would you like to add anything else?


On a final note, Garrigues is very proud of our ongoing collaboration with Business Tianjin. The information and insight that your publication provides are invaluable to the Chinese business community. I would like to say, “keep up the good work and we look forward to working with your organisation in the future.”


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