The first ever trade summit between Latin America and China has been held in Chile, aimed at enhancing economic ties between the regions.

The summit, held on 27 and 28 November, allowed Latin American companies to introduce their countries” trade and investment environments to the Chinese enterprises. The China Counsel for the Promotion of International Trade, the Export-Import Bank of China, Chile”s National Chamber of Commerce and the Chilean Central Bank co-hosted the meeting.

Michael Diaz, managing partner of Miami-based law firm Diaz, Reus, Rolff & Targ, attended the summit and expects to see law firms in the region reacting to the increase in trade, although he thinks relations could be hampered by the significant cultural differences between Latin American and Chinese lawyers. "We”re not just talking about disparities in legislation, there are also huge social differences to consider," he says. "The upshot of an increase in trade may be an increase in commercial disputes, which would have to be resolved through arbitration and mediation."

Already some Latin American law firms are deciding to set up shop in China. Brazilian Felsberg, Pedretti, Mannrich e Aidar Advogados plans to open a branch in Shanghai next year. Founding partner Thomas Benes Felsberg thinks it may take time for more firms to open up in China. "It is a big learning curve," he says. "The way business is done in China is based on trust, and this takes time to build. We have to be patient and work together in order to see good results."

Several law firms have already taken the plunge. Brazilian firm Duarte Garcia, Caselli Guimarães e Terra opened a branch in Beijing five years ago and has since assisted China”s biggest steelmaker Baosteel in its joint venture with Brazil”s mining group CVRD. The story can be read in full here. Noronha Advogados, also from Brazil, pioneered the trend – it was the first Latin American law firm to open in China in 2001.

Trade between the two regions reached over US$63 billion in the first nine months of this year – an increase of 43.5 per cent on the same period last year.

Most of the products China imported from Latin America are raw materials such as iron ore and oil, while Chinese low-price exports, especially light textile and electronic and mechanical products, are in demand in Latin America.