The justice chief yesterday gave an assurance that greater legal co-operation between Hong Kong and the mainland would not lead to counter-productive competition. Secretary for Justice Elsie Leung Oi-sie gave the assurance during a symposium to mark 'Qingdao - Hong Kong Day 2002' in the coastal city. She said that China had already said it did not want to open its legal services to foreign firms despite its World Trade Organisation (WTO) entry. 'Professionals from Hong Kong will not be engaged in vicious competition with their mainland counterparts,' Miss Leung said. She added that closer co-operation between Hong Kong and mainland legal professionals would simplify unnecessary procedures in the handling of disputes that involved parties across the border. 'Time-consuming travel can be avoided if lawyers from the two places can co-operate. By doing so, it would also be easier to ascertain where the crux of the issue lies, while procedural delays could be avoided and the relevant legal issues could be fully argued,' she said. 'Lawyers from the mainland and Hong Kong could complement each other and help enhance each other's knowledge of the law of the two places.' SAR and mainland officials are discussing closer legal ties, along with a Closer Economic Partnership Arrangement (CEPA) on goods and services. Miss Leung said the transfer of skills and knowledge in other sectors would also be more efficient than 'what we can get from foreign experts'. But Hong Kong would not ask the central government to contravene WTO rules and give the SAR special treatment in seeking greater economic co-operation. 'If we ask the central government to contravene the rules, this will render its accession to the WTO meaningless,' she said. Miss Leung said the central government had made it clear it encouraged Hong Kong to step up promotion of its service sector on the mainland, while speeding up the CEPA discussions.