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THE LAW AND COMMERCE

Lloyd's Maritime and Commercial Law Quarterly

THE LAW AND COMMERCE

Lord Reed of Allermuir*
This lecture focuses on the importance of the law to commerce, and of commerce to the law, with particular reference to the recent work of the UK Supreme Court and the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. It explains how the UK’s success as a centre of international commerce and international dispute resolution is underpinned by the flexibility of the common law, by international confidence in the quality, integrity and independence of the judiciary, and by adherence to the rule of law.
In 2018 I was privileged to give the annual lecture in Kuala Lumpur in memory of that distinguished judge, Sultan Azlan Shah. I am grateful to have been invited to give the next in this series of lectures in Oxford under the auspices of the Sultan Azlan Shah Fellowship, currently held by my former colleague Lady Hale. I am following in the footsteps of highly distinguished judges and jurists, and am conscious of the honour of being given the opportunity to add my contribution.
I spoke in Kuala Lumpur about constitutional law. In this lecture, I would like to share some thoughts about a subject which might appear to be entirely unrelated, namely the relationship between the law and commerce. I say, “might appear”, because I will be suggesting that there is, in fact, a connection.
I am going to focus on the United Kingdom, because that is the country with whose law and commerce I am most familiar, but I suspect that the points I will be making have a wider relevance, at least to countries in the common law world.
The UK has been a leading centre of international commerce for centuries. Even today, after the end of empire and the development of major commercial centres in other countries such as the USA, China and Japan, London remains one of the world’s leading financial centres, ranked second by revenue only to New York, and ahead of Hong Kong, Singapore and San Francisco in third, fourth and fifth places.1 Two other British cities also feature in the world’s top 65: Edinburgh and Glasgow. As I will explain, it seems to me to be no coincidence that the UK is also one of the world’s largest centres for legal services, ranked second by revenue only to the US. It
The law and commerce

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