Sanjay Notani
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Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders - India

Sanjay Notani is a partner at Economic Laws Practice (ELP), India. He provides trade advice and litigates on issues concerning trade remedial and FTAs/RTAs, including WTO disputes for various corporates and governments. He also advises and strategises on issues of NTB, SPS TBT, market access, export control and sanctions. Sanjay has been recommended for his expertise in Chambers Asia-Pacific, Chambers Global, The Legal 500, WWL: Trade & Customs, WorldECR and the BRIC Expert Guide. He continues to be associated with ABA and IPBA committees.

What inspired you to pursue a legal career?

The idea of being able to advocate for the interests of another, and intellectually stimulating thinking on various issues affecting regulation and society, inspired me to pursue a career in law.

What do you enjoy most about working in trade and customs law?

Several challenges confront trade and customs practitioners globally, including India. These include adapting to fast-changing regulatory landscapes, dealing with business disruptions and assessing of political deliverables. To be able to apply these to settled legal principles before domestic and international regulators and courts, as well as the WTO, is something that I find very challenging and also enjoy about working in trade and customs law. Also, regulations needs to catch up with the world of data and forms of technologies (eg, big data, artificial intelligence, blockchain) and issues (privacy, cybersecurity, data localisation, sanctions, e-commerce) thereof. With increasing domestic regulations, creating data barriers on transfer of data until multilateral principles are accepted will require trade lawyers to work with corporates and governments to balance the interest of all.

How do you see your practice developing over the next five years?

The trade remedies and trade-restrictive measures in the form of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade remain much debated and are a matter of serious concern as they have grown manifold, affecting various sectors and in turn, global trade. In particular, India and the USA have been considered to be at the forefront of initiating trade remedy investigations.

Apart from the opportunities on data-related issues highlighted above, the evolving regulations on transfer of capital by sanctioned countries, the blocking of investments on critical infrastructure, restrictions on transfer of high-tech technologies and IP issues are clearly some of the evolving and challenging areas.

How does Economic Laws practice stand out from its competitors in the market?

Economic Laws Practice has been at the forefront of international trade law and policy in India, as its endeavour has always been to understand and imbibe clients’ business interests and, accordingly, provide high-quality, result-oriented legal solutions. Due to our working relationship with various law firms globally, imbibing the best practices, and learning to adapt and develop efficient and solution-driven results makes us different from our competitors. Constantly developing simple and logical methodologies to resolving complex issues with a definitive time and value proposition makes it a fun and challenging place for our professionals to aim being thought leaders.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is currently being negotiated by the Indian government. What effects do you think the outcome might have on the market?

India’s existing FTA agreements with South Korea, Japan and the Association of South East Asian Nations have seen trade imbalance and trade deficit for the former.

Various stakeholders have also opined that the RCEP will have an impact on sectors such as steel, pharmaceuticals, e-commerce, food processing, agriculture, intellectual property and food security.

However, experts have argued that the RCEP would also have its own benefits. To name a few, RCEP may replace the current competing FTA/RTA, giving rise to simplified trade rules and stronger production bases in RCEP area. A consensus among RCEP members on adopting common rules of origins can make movement of goods easier and predictable across the member countries. The interdependence on supply chain models will gain strength as also export of services (four modes of supply in various service related sectors) will make it beneficial for India to maximise the potential it has been focusing on.

Companies are increasingly using in-house legal teams for a greater proportion of their legal work. What threat does this pose to law firms and how are firms adapting?

International trade law is a very specialised practise area. Even if companies are increasingly using in-house legal teams for a greater proportion of their legal work, it may not be a threat to law firms specialising in international trade law considering the in-depth practical, business and specialist legal experience a trade practitioner may have to offer. Since trade lawyers under business of the client in detail, we contribute back to the companies with its experience on working of complex issues such as market access, supply chain, sanctions and data related work.

You have enjoyed a distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?

Like I said, no two cases are the same. Every case that I have worked on so far, has been very different in terms of the challenges that I was posed with and my focus has always been towards achieving solutions head-on to every such challenge. I would like to say that I see every case that I have worked on as an accomplishment and also the pleasure of evolving best practices with young team members.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in trade and customs law?

We deal with issues that are governed by international regulations. This often requires us to balance domestic and bilateral concerns to arrive at advice that is acceptable to all. For this reason, trade and customs lawyers must constantly remain mindful of updates on issues of law, business, economics and politics, which is evolving and never static.


Who's Who Legal Trade & Customs: Lawyers

Sanjay Notani is a partner at Economic Laws Practice (ELP) and co-heads the international trade and customs practice. He is a member of the American Bar Association (ABA), the Inter-Pacific Bar Association (IPBA) and the Customs and International Trade Bar Association (CITBA).

Sanjay represents domestic manufacturers, foreign exporters, governments trade associations and importers in administrative and appellate litigation to obtain trade remedial reliefs from unfairly traded imports in anti-dumping, countervailing and safeguard duty proceedings initiated inbound, outbound and disputes arising from free trade agreements (FTAs) and regional trade agreements (RTAs). He also provides trade advice on various FTAs or RTAs being negotiated and signed by India, including WTO disputes. This includes analysis of all the matters that make up an import or export declaration including valuation, classification, country of origin, marking and labelling, qualification for the relevant free trade programme or agreement and free trade zone issues. He helps clients respond to customs notices, conduct internal compliance reviews, pursue customs rulings and providing advice on issues such as regulatory barriers.

Sanjay’s expertise lies in advising various multinational companies on import and export control as well as licensing issues, specifically the dual use of goods and technologies regulations maintained by the Ministry of Commerce, the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of External Affairs and other allied Ministries. He has worked across various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, medical devices, chemicals, textiles, telecom, energy, and consumer products.

Sanjay has been recommended for his expertise in Chambers Asia-Pacific (2013–2018), Chambers Global (2015–2018) and The Legal 500 (2015–2018).  He has also been identified as a leading expert by WWL: Trade & Customs (2015–2018). Sanjay has been recognised as a specialist for international trade in India by the BRIC Expert Guide (2013). He was named as a winner at WorldECR magazine’s 2016 awards for export controls and sanctions expertise. Sanjay has been elected to the ABA committee (2017) and was selected as vice chair for the IPBA (2017). He has been featured as a Thought Leader in WWL: Trade & Customs (2017).

WWL says: Sanjay Notani is recognised as "a top-class practitioner" by respondents around the world this year. His expertise lies in import and export control matters, as well as trade regulation matters.

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Trade & Customs which can be purchased from our Shop.

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