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Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer competition partner Nicholas French is relocating from London to Beijing to co-head the China antitrust, competition and trade (ACT) practice.

French will relocate to Beijing in July to replace Alex Potter as co-head of the group alongside Michael Han. Potter is returning to London after 18 months in the role.

French said: “The firm’s ACT practice has played an important role in developing competition law in China over the past few years and I am delighted to be taking on a leading role at such an important time.”

Freshfields ACT global co-head David Aitman added: “Client feedback has been that Chinese antitrust advice is now key to their international strategies.”

Freshfields has five partners in Beijing, four in Shanghai, with a further 10 located in Hong Kong. Earlier this year the magic circle firm appointed a new Asia managing partner, with corporate partner Simon Marchant taking the reins. The firm had been without a managing partner in the region since Perry Noble stepped down from the role in 2006.

Freshfields’ 270-lawyer Asia practice also includes offices in Tokyo, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. It also regularly advises on matters in Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, the Philippines and Indonesia.

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