Creation and Role of the BRICS New Development Bank

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

Map of BRICS countries

Map of BRICS countries

In July, Brazil hosted two important events, each significant in its own way: the FIFA World Cup; and the Sixth Annual Summit Meeting of Emerging Economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS). The members of BRICS meet annually to discuss the world economy, global development and the further strengthening of the BRICS group. Since its inception in 2009, BRICS have called for a greater role in international financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), as well as transparency in electing the leaders of these institutions. Despite robust economies, BRICS members continue to play a relatively minor role in global finance decisions. In a first step to provide an alternative to “Western-dominated” international financial institutions, the BRICS members announced a proposal to open the New Development Bank (NDB) during their 4th annual summit, held in Delhi, 2012. Continue reading

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Indian Elections 2014: Are Good Days Here to Come?

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

Map of India

Map of India

India’s general elections, conducted this year from April to May, created a foray of buzz among world leaders, top business investors and last, but not the least, the common man of India. India gained independence in 1947 and had its first free election in the year 1951-1952. Never in the period of sixty years of elections had this euphoria built upon the entire process. People held their breath as the time for transition in India began.

The election contest was mainly between two major national political parties: the Indian National Congress and its allies, collectively known as United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Rahul Gandhi; and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its allies, collectively known as National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by Narendra Modi. The choice was between the former who belonged to one of the world’s most famous political dynasties, and the latter, a controversial political figure and elected head of a province. India’s fundamental problems like growing inflation, instability, corruption, job creation, tackling terrorism and alleviating poverty were, and continue to be, widespread and challenging to both the central and state administrations. UPA, the ruling party since 2004, undertook major reforms and policies but struggled to contain growing dissatisfaction among all classes of Indians. The current electorate wanted better governance with an able administrator who could revive the economy once again.  Continue reading

Suggestions for Improving Myanmar’s Current Investment Environment

This week, we conclude our series by TransLegal’s correspondent in Myanmar, Oliver Massmann.  Oliver was invited by His Excellence Minister Soe Thane to the President’s office on 22 January 2014 to present on current investment and trade issues faced by foreign investors in Myanmar.  Here are Oliver’s suggestions to improve the investment climate in Myanmar.

Contact TransLegal and Oliver to learn more about investment opportunities and challenges in Myanmar.

Oliver Massmann 

The Future – Recommendations for Myanmar

Myanmar Landscape Photo Credit: Colegota via Wikimedia Commons

Myanmar Landscape
Photo Credit: Colegota via Wikimedia Commons

Following our discussion last week of the challenges facing foreign investors in Myanman, we turn to specific recommendations for how the country can improve its current investment climate to attract foreign direct investment (FDI).

In general, we recommend that Myanmar align standards with international best practices to enhance the country’s competitiveness, pave the way for regional integration and improve the quality of products/level of services for the people of Myanmar. Continue reading

Key Challenges Facing Investors in Myanmar’s Current Investment Environment

This week, we are featuring a two-part guest blog prepared by TransLegal’s correspondent in Myanmar, Oliver Massmann.  Oliver was invited by His Excellence, Minister Soe Thane, to the President’s office on 22 January 2014 to discuss current investment and trade issues faced by foreign investors in Myanmar.  Below is the position paper Oliver drafted after the meeting.

This week, Oliver focuses on the issues facing foreign investors in Myanmar.  Next week’s blog will discuss possible solutions.

Contact TransLegal and Oliver to learn more about investment opportunities and challenges in Myanmar.

Oliver Massmann 

I           The Vision for Myanmar:

Map of Myanmar

Map of Myanmar

Historically, Myanmar was the wealthiest country in Southeast Asia and also once the world’s

largest exporter of rice. It produced 75% of the world’s teak and had a highly literate population.

After such a long time being closed off, however, it is now one of the poorest countries in Asia.

Everything has changed since Myanmar embarked on a major policy of reforms in 2011, and

Myanmar is now a new Asian emerging market.

Myanmar has all the elements required to create another Asian economic miracle, and it has strong potential.  Before realizing that potential, Myanmar has to solve the challenges and impediments hindering its development.

Myanmar must seize the opportunity to become what it once was: a country with a transparent and responsible investment and trade policy.  Continue reading

Australia and the Great Economic Powers: India

Francisco A. Laguna & Jennie Linder Cunningham

This week we conclude our series on Australia, focusing on the country’s trade relations with India.

Maps of Australia and India  Photo Credit: newstonight.net

Maps of Australia and India
Photo Credit: newstonight.net

Trade between Australia and India has increased rapidly over the past decade.  It may prove to become a positive alternative to China, particularly if the Australia – China Free Trade Agreement stalls. With a market nearly the size of China’s and a population and economy that is increasingly modernizing, bilateral trade between India and Australia has increased to $17.4 billion in 2012, up from just $3.3 in 2000. In discussing the trade relationship, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade stresses the fact that India is the world’s largest democracy.

Continue reading

Potential Impacts of India’s New Companies Act, 2013

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

In last week’s post, we highlighted some of the new concepts and changes introduced by India’s Companies Act, 2013 (the “Act”).  Today, we explore some of the critiques of the Act and its potential impacts.

Many detractors of the Act still consider it inadequate compared to the legislation governing companies in many jurisdictions. Moreover, several provisions will not enter into force immediately: public comments continue to be reviewed, and the Indian Government must draft various rules and regulations to implement them.

India: Red Fort Photo Credit: Soham Banerjee via Wikimedia Commons

India: Red Fort
Photo Credit: Soham Banerjee via Wikimedia Commons

The Act was rolled out in two sessions, with feedback on the 1st Phase rules to be submitted by 10 October and feedback on the 2nd Phase rules to be provided by 23 October. Many have argued that the whole Act should have entered into force at one time, to avoid confusion. In addition, the lack of clarity in certain provisions has resulted in criticism by auditors, lawyers and finance professionals. Continue reading

India’s New Companies Act, 2013

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

This week, we begin a 2-part series on India’s “Companies Act, 2013”, enacted in August 2013 (the “Act”).  The Act replaces the six-decade old Companies Act, 1956. Over the past 57 years, India’s corporate and business environment has evolved significantly; hence, the need to amend and modernize the law. The legislation is aimed at improving accountability and transparency in the corporate sector and increasing foreign investor confidence in the country.

Compared to Companies Act, 1956, the Act has brought about drastic changes in several areas of company administration and management to facilitate the ease of doing business in India.  One major objective of the Act is to decrease the need for government approvals, enhance self-regulation, increase shareholder rights and implement stricter corporate governance rules to meet global standards. The Act implements key changes in the following areas:

Government Buildings in New Delhi Photo Credit: Airunp via WIkimedia Commons

Government Buildings in New Delhi
Photo Credit: Airunp via WIkimedia Commons

  • Loans, Compromise, Arrangements, Amalgamations/Mergers and Demergers
  • Auditing
  • Accounting
  • Corporate governance
  • Related-party transactions

Importantly, the Act specifies that foreign companies conducting business activities in India in any manner are deemed to be Indian companies and must comply with Indian regulatory requirements.  It is unclear how this provision will be interpreted or applied. Continue reading

Genetically Modified Organisms in India

Francisco A. Laguna & Annapurna Nandyal

Photo Credit: Raj via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Raj via Wikimedia Commons

By the mid-1990s, genetically modified (GM) technology had inspired food crops and revolutionized agriculture by thwarting several threats found in traditional farming methods. The obvious benefits of using GM seeds are that crops are more resistant to pests and environmental hazards, like temperature and drought, and, in turn, boost crop yields. This method of biotechnology became immensely popular in the United States, Canada and Argentina. Many considered it a boon to farmers to alleviate poverty and solve food security problems.

India is mainly an agricultural country with more than 60 percent of population employed in the sector. The Indian Government has been treading carefully concerning whether GM crops would be profitable for a massive young and growing economy, in contrast to the quick adoption by other developing BRICS nations like China and Brazil.  India is a party to the international agreement Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety under the Convention on Biological Diversity, which consists of 166 countries members who have similar views and have emphasized a precautionary approach to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

CottonPlantIndia was one of the earliest countries to establish a bio safety system for the regulation of GMOs.  It established the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) within the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF) in 1986. GEAC permission is required for field trials, cultivation and commercial release of all GM crops. After a slow start, in 2002, the GEAC permitted the first commercial cultivation of genetically engineered Bacillus thuringiesis (Bt) cotton, using seeds produced by Monsanto in collaboration with its Indian partner, Maharashtra Hybrid Seed Company (MAHYCO).  The use of Bt cotton raised much controversy because of its mixed results. While some farmers benefitted from using the seeds, others accumulated substantial debts due to the high cost of GM seeds and low yielding harvest.   Despite Bt cotton’s great promises, its cultivation in India was largely a deemed a failure because the hybrids produced in-country were unstable, unpredictable and ineffective in controlling pests.

The Bt cotton debacle had negative impacts on other GM crops in India. In 2009, Bt eggplant was almost approved for cultivation and commercialization.  In spite of encouraging results from various farm level trials and approval by the GEAC, the Ministry of Environment put approval on indefinite hold. Subsequently, India sued Monsanto and its Indian partner on bio piracy charges under the Biological Diversity Act 2002, accusing the company of stealing an indigenous crop (eggplant), which is a crime, and using it to create a modified version without permission from National Biodiversity Authority of India (NBA).

Photo Credit: Arne Hückelheim via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Arne Hückelheim via Wikimedia Commons

Industry argues that India discourages biotechnology and GM crops.  The Government responds that it has consistently taken a pro-biotechnology stand but has struck a cautious note to protect many small farmer interests.  Interestingly, according to the data compiled by International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA), India is among the top 5 GMO crop growing countries.

TransLegal works to clients to identify rules and regulations affecting the importation, cultivation and commercialization of genetically modified crops and foods derived from genetically modified organisms.  We also work to obtain approvals for the importation and use of GMOs for industrial purposes.  Call us with your questions concerning GMOs in India and other parts of the world.

Look for your Next Business Opportunity in Latin America

Francisco A. Laguna & Wojciech Kornacki 

Big changes are coming to Latin America.  Huge international conglomerates are heavily investing into resource exploration and agriculture development there.  While most of the natural resources are exported north to the United States, many European and Asian companies are about to change this trend.

Foreign Direct Investment in Latin America

Copper mining in Chile Photo Credit: Owen Cliffe via Wikimedia Commons

Copper mining in Chile
Photo Credit: Owen Cliffe via Wikimedia Commons

According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, foreign direct investment (“FDI”) in Latin America hit a new high in 2012 – 173.61 billion.  Many European and Chinese companies are directly responsible for this dramatic increase.  European countries account for approximately 43 percent of the entire FDI, and the European Commission seeks to increase it even more. The European Commission indicates that Europe seeks to engage the entire region as a whole and deepen its economic and trade connections.  Indian companies are similarly showing increased interest in the region.  For an international business person, this means more potential business opportunities, more legislative changes, and more opportunities for profit. Continue reading

Biometrics – Practicalities and Security & Regulatory Concerns

Francisco A. Laguna & Emily Schneider

Last week, we discussed the growing field of biometric technology. Many countries are starting to employ biometrics to identify citizens and non-citizens, regulate immigration and enhance government aid programs. Companies in the private sector are using it to manage client files, add extra levels of security in their services and even to target consumers with promotions tailored to their personal preferences.

Photo Credit: Jemy Scotlander via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Jemy Scotlander via Wikimedia Commons

Biometric technology is inherently personally invasive. Body parts and personal characteristics are being used for biometric identification. Some identifiers – fingers, hands, feet, faces, eyes – have been dramatized in movies and novels and are better known to the public. However, biometrics can also include identifiers like ears, teeth, voice, veins, hand-written signatures, typing styles, gaits and odors.

Biometrics data is useless without the accompanying component: the biometric identification system. These biometric systems compare the captured biometric data to a database. A biometric identification system consists of many parts: a scanning or sensing device, signal processing algorithm, a data storage component, a matching algorithm, and a decision process. The sensor is used to collect the biometric data and convert the information to a digital format. The signal-processing algorithm performs quality control activities and develops the biometric template. A data storage component keeps information, like registration samples, for future use when new live samples are provided. The matching algorithm is used to compare the live biometric samples to the ones in the data storage. The last component, a decision process, uses the results from the matching component to make a system level decision about whether the live sample matches any previously registered samples. The decision process can be fully automated or human-assisted.

Continue reading