For the past decade, the United States has topped the
"league tables" in foreign direct investment in
Australia. The enormous investment flow has spanned multiple
industry sectors and geographic locations. As a global law firm
with substantial deployments in both countries, we at K&L Gates
take great pride in the strength of the economic ties between the
US and Australia.
Beyond these economic bonds, we also reflect upon our
nations' shared belief in the Rule of Law. Both societies
believe passionately in fair and open systems of justice and in
values that honour individual rights and economic freedom. Our
joint commitment to free enterprise as central to the efficient
allocation of resources and economic growth could not exist absent
the Rule of Law. Caprice -- the mortal enemy of the Rule of Law --
undermines both individual and economic freedom.
Like other living things, the Rule of Law must be nourished
through thick and thin. We live in a world in which many ascending
economic powers have no like tradition, and forces often times
emerge in the marketplace that can cause an erosion of the Rule of
Law. An obvious example concerns varying degrees of respect for
intellectual property rights, but in fact the range of challenges
to the Rule of Law extends well beyond the headlines cases.
Both Australia and the US owe their British forbears a debt of
gratitude for a wonderful shared language -- though that might not
be evident in every conversation! And we are in their debt for the
extraordinary legal tradition that they have conferred upon both
societies. The common law is a moderating influence in a world
otherwise characterized by impulse and force. With the passage of
time, the common law has supplied the rules of the road for orderly
society -- one in which duties to and rights of others are
The Rule of Law, however, has longer roots than the common law.
The notion that the most powerful members of society must be
constrained by law has ancient antecedents that precede even the
Magna Carta. We need always to remember this history, as some of
the societies that helped to fashion the concept have in more
recent times abandoned it. The Rule of Law requires missionaries in
this generation and every other.
That's where the legal profession comes in. The Rule of Law
has no more faithful adherents than the Australian and American
legal professions. With both word and deed, lawyers in our
countries work assiduously to uphold a legal tradition against
global forces that regard it as a needless extravagance or a
roadblock to achieving desired outcomes through main force. In
every legal engagement, the stakes are large not just for the
parties but also for society generally.
The meeting of the Group of Twenty is a reaffirmation of what
unites peoples around the world -- the challenges as well as the
opportunities. Not all G20 member states embrace the Rule of Law as
we understand it, but they all have lawyers who, no less than the
feudal barons on the Plains of Runnemede in 1215, must strive to
constrain unbridled power by subjecting both the powerful and the
weak to the same rules and processes of justice.
As the American Chamber of Commerce in Australia marks the
occasion of the G20 meeting, we can view the American investment in
Australia as not only sound business but also as a resounding
validation of the Rule of Law. Two societies that share this
framework can do business with each other in confidence that the
rules of the road will be adhered to by one and all. In a dangerous
world, we should celebrate this kinship.
*Peter J Kalis is Chairman and Global Managing Partner, K&L
Gates LLP. Mr. Kalis, was recognized in the August 2013 issue of
The American Lawyer magazine as among 50 innovators who have
dramatically shaped the global legal industry over the past five
decades. Mr Kalis was one of a dozen law firm leaders cited by the
magazine as "master strategists" and the publication
specifically noted Mr Kalis' leadership in making K&L Gates
the first financially transparent US law firm. K&L Gates
represents leading global corporations, growth and middle-market
companies, capital markets participants and entrepreneurs in every
major industry group as well as public sector entities, educational
institutions, philanthropic organizations and individuals. K&L
Gates LLP comprises more than 2,000 lawyers who practice in fully
integrated offices located on five continents including North
America, South America, Asia, Australasia and Europe.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
K&L Gates has been awarded a 2012 EOWA Employer of Choice
for Women citation acknowledging our commitment to workplace
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