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Home International Economic Law Archive for category "Bilateral Investment Treaties"

The Constitutional Frontiers of International Economic Law

Published on March 9, 2017        Author: 

The End of Mega-Regionalism?

The future of ‘mega-regionals’, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), has become doubtful since President Trump took office. Through decisions, such as the withdrawal from TPP, he is putting his rhetoric to ‘Make America Great Again’ in action. Yet, the idea to put national values first is not, I argue in a recent issue of the Journal of World Investment and Trade, so different from opposition to mega-regionals elsewhere. Both the ‘new America’ and opponents to mega-regionals in Europe speak in favor of disengaging from mega-regionals and replacing them with action by the nation state. At the same time, rejecting mega-regionals will result in sticking with the existing international institutional infrastructure that is widely regarded as insufficient to effectively regulate globalization for the better.

Despite similarities in their effects, there are important differences across the Atlantic. In the European Union, opposition most vocally comes from the left, not from the right. It also does not come from an elected executive, but from large numbers of citizens and opposition parties, as well as a smaller number of Member States, or even sub-divisions of Member States – think of Wallonia. And it is couched in entirely different vocabulary: Rather than speaking the language of nationalism and protectionism, opposition in the EU invokes constitutional values and rights – namely democracy, the rule of law, and fundamental rights – which are leveraged against mega-regionals and the institutions they come with, notably investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and regulatory cooperation.

Increasing Involvement of Constitutional Courts

Couching opposition to mega-regionals in constitutional language has important consequences: It brings in a different set of actors, namely constitutional courts. Following earlier examples in Latin America, the 13 October 2016 ruling of the German Constitutional Court on an application for an injunction against the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) brought by some 120,000 individuals is likely just the first of many court rulings in which international economic law encounters its constitutional frontiers head-on. Read the rest of this entry…

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Unpacking the Complexities of Backlash and Identifying its Unintended Consequences

Published on August 25, 2016        Author: 

References to “backlash” are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in international law scholarship (see for example this recent EJIL article and accompanying EJIL:Talk! Discussion). Few have, however, sought to define or unpack the complexities of backlash. In this post, we draw upon our chapter in a forthcoming book titled The Judicialization of International Law – A Mixed Blessing? (Oxford University Press, 2017). We seek to develop a notion of “backlash”, identify what underlies it, and illuminate its potential unintended consequences. While we focus upon investment treaty arbitration as a case study, we endeavor to illuminate the complexities of evaluating opposition to international regimes. These issues hold particular relevance to investor-State arbitration given current State negotiations of major bi‑ and multi‑ lateral treaties with investor-State protections. They are also likely to gain in relevance with many investment treaties shortly coming up for renewal or termination.

Defining Backlash

The notion of backlash has seldom been defined, instead being used as an umbrella term to capture a range of forms of critique and contestation. These include State decisions to review, not renew, terminate, or withdraw from existing treaties; refusals to negotiate or sign investment treaties; and changes in the approaches of States to the negotiation of new treaties. There are also forms of “backlash” arising from civil society, non-governmental organizations, and academia in the form of protests, comments in public consultation processes, increased reporting, and academic discussion. Such acts, along with others, are increasingly cited as evidence of “a rising backlash” against the regime of investor-State arbitration generally.

The term “backlash” indicates the presence of something more than scrutiny, critique or even crisis. Read the rest of this entry…

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Philip Morris v Uruguay: an affirmation of ‘Police Powers’ and ‘Regulatory Power in the Public Interest’ in International Investment Law

Published on July 28, 2016        Author: 

In recent years there has been criticism that international investment treaties and investor-State arbitration conducted under those treaties increasingly, and unacceptably, have encroached upon the legitimate uses of States’ regulatory power. These concerns have not only been expressed in scholarship, but have also been at the forefront of State negotiations in recent multilateral and bilateral trade and investment agreements (see, for example, the recent discussion by Anthea Roberts and Richard Braddock here on the China-Australia Free Trade Agreement). The concerns have led to policy proposals from States and international organisations for greater safeguards for States to be able to enact measures in the public interest without attracting liability under investment treaties.

Investor-State arbitration tribunals appear to be alive to these concerns. On 8 July 2016, a tribunal (constituted by Professor Piero Bernardini, Mr Gary Born and Judge James Crawford) convened pursuant to the Switzerland-Uruguay Bilateral Investment Treaty (‘BIT’) delivered an award which, by majority, upheld the legality of two tobacco-control measures enacted by the Uruguayan government for the purpose of protecting public health. The award contains an extensive analysis of the interaction between States’ regulatory powers to enact laws in the public interest and States’ obligations to protect and promote foreign investment within their territory. This post will focus on two aspects of the award that considered this interaction: the claim pursuant to Article 5 of the BIT (expropriation) and the claim pursuant to Article 3(2) (fair and equitable treatment or FET).

The challenged measures

The claim, brought by the Philip Morris group of tobacco companies against Uruguay, challenged two legislative measures. First, the claimants challenged a law that mandated a ‘single presentation requirement’ on cigarette packaging, such that different packaging or variants of cigarettes were prohibited.

Secondly, the claimants challenged a law that mandated an increase in the size of health warnings on cigarette packaging from 50 to 80% of the lower part of each of the main sides of a cigarette package (‘the 80/80 requirement’). As the the amicus brief submitted by the WHO and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (‘FCTC’) Secretariat noted, large graphic and text health warnings are increasingly common on tobacco packaging globally and a number of States have enacted (or are considering enacting) laws with the aim of preventing misleading tobacco packaging, as is required of States parties to the FCTC (including Uruguay). Read the rest of this entry…

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Arbitral Controls and Policing the Gates to Investment Treaty Claims against States in Transglobal Green Energy v. Panama and Philip Morris v. Australia

Published on June 22, 2016        Author: 

Investor-State arbitral tribunals are increasingly policing the gates to investment treaty claims against States. The initiation of investment treaty claims against States remains subject to a high threshold of good faith against possible abuse of process by investors, as recently stressed by arbitrators Dr. Andres Rigo Sureda (President), Professor Christoph Schreuer, and Professor Jan Paulsson, in their 2 June 2016 Award in Transglobal Green Energy LLC and Transglobal Green Panama S.A. v. Republic of Panama. The Tribunal upheld Panama’s objection to jurisdiction on the ground of “abuse by Claimants of the investment treaty system by attempting to create artificial international jurisdiction over a pre-existing domestic dispute.” (Transglobal Award, para. 118). The Transglobal Award was issued six months after another tribunal in Philip Morris International v. Australia [composed of arbitrators Professor Karl-Heinz Böckstiegel (President), Professor Gabrielle Kaufmann-Kohler, and Professor Donald M. McRae] issued its landmark 17 December 2015 Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility, declaring that: “the commencement of treaty-based investor-State arbitration constitutes an abuse of right (or abuse of process) when an investor has changed its corporate structure to gain the protection of an investment treaty at a point in time where a dispute was foreseeable. A dispute is foreseeable when there is a reasonable prospect that a measure that may give rise to a treaty claim will materialize.” (Philip Morris Award, para. 585.) While to date there is scarcely any doctrinal unanimity over what comprises abuse of process, abuse of rights, or bad faith institution of investor-State claims [see for example Eric De Brabandere, Good Faith, Abuse of Process, and the Initiation of Investment Treaty Claims, 3 Journal of International Dispute Settlement 3, pp. 1-28 (2012), these recent arbitral decisions provide concrete guidance of factors that tribunals have taken into account to determine whether investor-claimants instituted investment treaty arbitration proceedings in good faith.

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Claims by Dual Nationals under Investment Treaties: A New Form of Treaty Abuse?

Published on December 9, 2015        Author: 

The issue of treaty abuse (or ‘treaty shopping’) has received heightened attention recently in the context of the on-going negotiations for the conclusion of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). In a public consultation on the potential inclusion of an investor-State arbitration clause in TTIP, the European Commission (EC) has raised concerns regarding the investors’ manipulation of corporate nationality through the so-called “shell” or “mailbox” companies in order to take advantage of the protection afforded by investment treaties (See Public consultation on modalities for investment protection and ISDS in TTIP, Question 1, p. 18). In line with the contributions made by many of the participants involved in the consultation process, the EC has stated that these companies should be excluded from the scope of TTIP. Accordingly, the EC has proposed to narrow the definition of the term ‘investor’ by requiring that a juridical person must have ‘substantial business activities’ in the territory of a signatory State (See Public consultation on modalities for investment protection and ISDS in TTIP, Question 1, pg. 18).

The foregoing requirement certainly responds to the criticisms of inappropriate treaty shopping, and it may be considered as a useful tool to prevent corporate investors from obtaining treaty protection by illegitimate means. Yet, the EC overlooks the fact that, in addition to corporations, investment treaties might also be subject to abuse by individual investors. In this context, a new type of BIT claim is now emerging in the field of investor-State arbitration, whereby investors who hold the nationality of both contracting parties to the treaty (i.e. dual nationals) make their own State a respondent before an international tribunal. Read the rest of this entry…

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Beneficial Ownership and International Claims for Economic Damage: Occidental Petroleum v. Ecuador and Restoring Limits to Investor-State Arbitral Tribunals’ Jurisdiction Ratione Personae

Published on November 16, 2015        Author: 

On 2 November 2015, the ICSID ad hoc Committee composed of Prof. Juan Fernandez-Armesto (Committee President), Justice Florentino Feliciano, and Mr. Rodrigo Oreamuno in Occidental Petroleum Corporation v. The Republic of Ecuador (ICSID Case No. ARB/06/11) partially annulled the massive US $1.769 Billion award of damages issued on 5 October 2012 by the majority of the arbitral tribunal (Mr. Yves Fortier, President, and Mr. David A.R. Williams) over the strong dissent of arbitrator Prof. Brigitte Stern. Agreeing with arbitrator Stern’s position that Occidental Petroleum had split its ownership to give a 40% ownership interest to a Chinese company Andes/AEC (Committee decision, para. 204), the ICSID ad hoc Committee whittled down the damages awarded to only reflect the actual 60% ownership of claimant Occidental Petroleum in the assets that Ecuador expropriated. The Committee’s decision significantly brought down the compensation value for the expropriation to the 60% as owned by Occidental Petroleum to US$1.061 Billion (Committee decision, paras. 586 and 590). The Committee treated the Chinese company Andes/AEC’s beneficial ownership of 40% of the expropriated assets as outside the scope of its jurisdiction over covered investors protected under the US-Ecuador BIT.

In issuing its landmark decision, the Committee stressed proscribed limits under the law of investor-State claims; the distinct confined mandate and authority of arbitral tribunals as derived from the creation and consent of States; and the ensuing narrow availability of the investor-State treaty arbitral system only to treaty-covered investors: Read the rest of this entry…

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Creating Conduits: Summary Report of the First Annual Oxford Investment Claims Summer Academy, St. Anne’s College (Oxford)

This July 13-14, Oxford University Press and Investment Claims convened the First Annual Oxford Investment Claims Summer Academy at St. Anne’s College, the University of Oxford. Co-chaired by Diane Desierto, Ian Laird, and Frederic Sourgens, the Academy brought together a select expert group of academic and practitioner delegates to discuss the legitimacy of investor-state arbitration in the context of continuous and often virulent political criticism. The method and structure of the Academy departed from a traditional presentation format. Instead, the Academy as the first gathering of experts of its kind acted as a laboratory for open and rapid discussion of frontier issues among all participants. As a result of this format, the Academy constructively explored both traditional text-based and context-sensitive solutions for these frontier issues. ICJ Judge James Crawford’s keynote address to the delegates aptly captured the spirit of the open and critical discussion when noting that while there is little in the way of feasible alternative to investor-state arbitration and much to lose by its abolition. Bench, bar, and ivory tower must find it in them to become better stewards of this mode of international dispute resolution. In particular, there is an urgent need to address weaknesses made visible by the first two decades of sustained arbitral and annulment jurisprudence. With the depth of engagement at the inaugural session, the co-chairs are planning to hold the Academy again in the summer of 2016.

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The Mauritius Convention on Transparency: A Model for Investment Law Reform?

Published on April 8, 2015        Author: 

In the midst of heated debates on investor-State dispute settlement in Europe, on 10 December 2014 the United Nations General Assembly adopted the United Nations Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration. Prepared by UNCITRAL in the context of its recent revision of the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the Convention, also known as the ‘Mauritius Convention on Transparency’, was opened for signature on 17 March 2015 in Port Louis, Mauritius. Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Mauritius, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States signed the Convention at this occasion (see UN Press Release). In my Editorial in the latest issue of the Journal of World Investment and Trade (which this blog reproduces), I interpret this Convention as a piece of constitutional reform of the international investment regime and ask to which extent it can serve as a model for international investment law reform more generally.

A Piece of Constitutional Reform of the International Investment Regime

The Mauritius Convention will extend the application of the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency, which so far have a very limited scope of application (only to UNCITRAL investor-State arbitrations that are based on treaties concluded on or after 1 April 2014), potentially to the entire treaty-based international investment regime as it stood on 1 April 2014. Notably, it would make the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules applicable to all treaty-based investor-State arbitrations under ‘old’ treaties, independently of the applicable arbitration rules. Whether the arbitration in question is governed by the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules, the ICSID Convention, the Arbitration Rules of the International Chamber of Commerce, the Arbitration Rules of the Arbitration Institute of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce – you name it – the Mauritius Convention would provide for transparency of submissions to arbitral tribunals, arbitration hearings, and decisions by arbitral tribunals, and give more room for third-party participation under a uniform set of rules. It could thus apply to some 3000+ investment treaty relations if both the respondent State and the investor’s home State are contracting parties or, alternatively, if the investor-claimant accepts the unilateral offer to apply the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules made by the respondent in signing the Convention (see Article 2 of the Mauritius Convention).

Provided it is signed and ratified by a sufficiently large number of States and regional economic integration organizations, such as the EU or ASEAN, the Mauritius Convention will bring about a paradigm shift in investor-State dispute settlement. Although possibilities for reservations, including subsequent ones, are broad (Articles 3 and 4 of the Mauritius Convention), and although ongoing arbitrations are excluded from its scope of application (Article 5 of the Mauritius Convention), the Convention will establish transparency as a general principle of international investment law.

This constitutes another step in the incremental adaptation of international investment law to the demands of a more democratic and accountable international public law system of private-public adjudication. The wide-spread application of transparency under the Convention would not only enhance the accountability of the underlying investor-State relations, but also enable better public control of the arbitral process. This turns the Mauritius Convention into an instrument with constitutional implications for the international investment regime. Read the rest of this entry…

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European Hypocrisy: TTIP and ISDS

Published on January 21, 2015        Author: 

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For some, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) in and of itself has become in many European (and American) circles, the enemy: another manifestation of unchecked globalization, the march of Capital trumping social, environmental and other  rights, an unhealthy embrace of the Americans from whose clutches we have painfully managed to extricate ourselves, et cetera. Yes, there is some sarcasm or irony in the above, but visit the blogs and you will see where it comes from. My sarcasm should not be taken as a dismissal of all or any of these concerns. TTIP is far from Snow White. The concerns are not entirely fanciful. It is the final objective I oppose: a no-holds-barred attack on TTIP with the objective of tanking the whole agreement. If this is your view, do not waste your time here and skip to another item.

A wholesale defeat of TTIP, if achieved, will, I believe, be a big time Pyrrhic victory ̶ a hugely missed opportunity for the polities and the peoples of these polities.

I support the TTIP for two obvious and banal reasons. First, there is every reason to believe that on aggregate it will contribute significantly to an increase in welfare in both polities, enhance growth, contribute to stability and constitute another tool, in an embarrassingly empty toolkit, to combat future transatlantic-generated economic shocks. A large and often unspoken asset of TTIP rests not with the content of the various substantive disciplines but in establishing a culture of joint conversation, regulation and management. It will counter the litigious and confrontational culture of the WTO, where the EU and the USA find themselves typically as rivals and antagonists. Constructivist theory actually has something to say here as do the insights of Global Administrative Law scholarship. Read the rest of this entry…

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