The World

March 1, 2010 1:18 PM

Steptoe & Johnson Makes Asia Play with Launch of Beijing Office

Posted by Anthony Lin

Emerson Eric Steptoe & Johnson is making its first move into Asia with a new office in Beijing.

Eric Emerson, a longtime Washington, D.C.-based partner specializing in international trade, has relocated to China to become managing partner of the new office, which officially opened on March 1. Joining him will be Susan Munro, a former counsel in O'Melveny & Myers's Shanghai office. Munro has a wide-ranging practice handling both transactional and litigation matters for multinational companies doing business in China.

Emerson (pictured right) says the new office will focus on Chinese clients in both the public and private sectors.

"The core of what we want to do is help Chinese companies go abroad," says Emerson, noting that Chinese companies considering outbound investments will need assistance navigating unfamiliar U.S. and European regulatory regimes. Chinese outbound acquisitions have also occasionally faced political resistance, as was the case with China National Offshore Oil Corp.'s failed bid to acquire Unocal in 2005.

"Chinese companies will realize it is not just a matter of black-letter law, and they need to pay attention to the political environment," says Emerson. "We can help them with that."

Steptoe is not the only D.C. firm pitching its regulatory expertise in Beijing these days. Covington & Burling recently bolstered its Beijing office with the addition of partner Timothy Stratford, who recently stepped down as assistant U.S. Trade Representative for China affairs.

According to a statement released by the firm, the Beijing lawyers also will take on anticorruption, export control, and sanctions work, as well as litigation and arbitration for Chinese clients engaged in cross-border litigation or dispute resolution. Some of the firms current engagements in China include representing the Chinese government in proceedings before the World Trade Organization, advising a well-known American brand regarding market access issues, and representing the interests of Chinese footwear producers in antidumping duty proceedings conducted by the European Commission.

Though Chinese companies will be the main focus, Emerson says Steptoe expects to advise multinational companies moving into China, including some who may face Chinese retaliation over Western tariffs and other trade measures.

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