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Home International Tribunals Archive for category "Investor-State Arbitration Tribunals" (Page 7)

International Arbitration: Heating Up or Under Pressure?

Published on March 11, 2014        Author: 

Dapo recently posted on this blog about the rise of inter-State cases before the PCA and predicted that “the current rise of inter-state arbitration will endure for some time“. Many readers will presumably be quite happy about the trend described: binding dispute resolution, if it happens, tends to make us international lawyers happy after all – so the more (cases) the merrier?

Interestingly, there is one branch of international law in which the debate currently seems take a different turn; in which the belief in binding dispute resolution is under attack – and in which many commentators, incl. many with an internationalist mindset and a keen desire for a rights-based global order, strongly feel that we have too much international arbitration. This is the field of investment law, in which the concept of investment arbitration has come under fire. Of course, this is an important debate for those interested in investment arbitration — academics, practitioners, companies, civil society, etc.  But, as importantly (if not more), it is also a debate that general international lawyers interested in dispute settlement should follow, and which I feel would benefit considerably if they did not leave it to the (pro- and anti-) investment communities. So this post is an attempt to introduce it to a wider audience and to encourage a wider debate. Within investment law, the debate has been going on for a while. However, over the past few months, it has suddenly heated up – and it has heated up in Europe, where the EU is formulating its investment policy. And this fresh start has opened up interesting spaces for debate. So what is it all about? Read the rest of this entry…

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Saar Papier v Poland: Comparative Public Law and the Second-Ever Investment Treaty Award

Published on February 3, 2014        Author: 

            Jarrod Hepburn is a Lecturer in Law at the University of Exeter, UK.

There has been much discussion in recent years – and in recent weeks on this blog – of the potential for investment treaty arbitration to benefit from a ‘comparative public law’ approach. In brief, the approach conceives of investment treaty arbitration as a form of public law, and calls for tribunals to draw on comparative domestic constitutional and administrative law, as well as other regimes of international public law such as WTO law and human rights law, to give content to the often vaguely-worded standards of typical investment treaties.

In the midst of contemporary enthusiasm for comparative public law, it is tempting to think that the approach is a new one that has been growing in prominence only over the last few years. However, this week brings news from Investment Arbitration Reporter that an UNCITRAL-rules investment treaty award dating from 1995, Saar Papier Vertriebs GmbH v Poland, has been unearthed. Amongst other aspects detailed by IAReporter, the case is particularly notable for its explicit use of domestic administrative law to interpret the provisions on indirect expropriation in the Germany-Poland BIT.

Indeed, this newly-uncovered investment treaty award – only the second ever (currently) known to be rendered, following AAPL v Sri Lanka in 1990 – contains intriguing indications that the comparative public law approach is a practically useful one for investment treaty arbitration. Furthermore, the age of this award raises the tempting view that, rather than being a new development in the field, comparative public law has been there all along.

However, as I discuss below, despite the treaty context of the claim, it is unclear whether the Saar Papier tribunal considered itself to be applying international law. Without this international law framework, it becomes more difficult to characterise the case as an instance of comparative public law at work. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Public Law Approach in the Practice of Investment Treaty Arbitration

Published on January 22, 2014        Author: 

In my last post, I discussed how comparative public law methodology could inform the resolution of investor-State disputes and thus help to reform the system from within. This may sound like a view from the ivory tower. In this post I will first discuss why arbitrators have an incentive to make use of such a methodology and, second, point to existing cases in which tribunals have already adopted a comparative public law framework.

System-Internal Reform and Identity Change

The success of using comparative public law as a system-internal reform strategy depends on the extent to which those active in practice endorse it. Enculturating public law thinking will need an identity change among arbitrators, arbitral institutions, annulment committees, and disputing parties. But why should a change in thinking take place, if there is nobody who coerces arbitrators to incorporate public law thinking or parties to develop their submissions on the basis of comparative public law? Do arbitrators not even have an incentive to keep the system running in a way that it maximizes the benefits of investors as claimants, and in turn, the arbitrators’ own interest in being reappointed? This is what critics like Gus Van Harten argue. In his view,

the novel situation in which claims can be brought by only one class of parties, and only the other class can be found to have violated the treaty, provides investment treaty arbitrators (including those who are state-appointed) with an incentive to favour claimants in order to advance the interests of the industry and their position within it.

Appointment of Arbitrators as a Source of Change

My view is different. I think that the one-off nature of arbitration and the appointment mechanism for arbitrators have a great potential for bringing change to the system. Read the rest of this entry…

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International Human Rights Law, Investment Arbitration and Proportionality Analysis: Panacea or Pandora’s Box?

Published on January 7, 2014        Author: 

GuntripEdward Guntrip is a Lecturer in Commercial Law at the University of East Anglia.

Investment law jurisprudence has failed to fully explore the relationship between international investment law and international human rights law (for example, see the cursory examination given in Vivendi v. Argentina para 262 and Pezold v. Zimbabwe Procedural Order 2 paras 57 – 59). As a result, the question of how to approach normative conflict between principles drawn from these regimes remains pertinent when resolving investment disputes with human rights implications. Proportionality analysis has been proposed as a suitable methodology for the resolution of this type of normative conflict (see Schill, ‘Cross-Regime Harmonization through Proportionality Analysis: The Case of International Investment Law, the Law of State Immunity and Human Rights’ 27 ICSID Review – FILJ (2012) 87). The use of proportionality analysis received tacit support when an ICSID arbitral tribunal suggested ‘counterbalancing’ competing obligations drawn from international investment law and international human rights law so as to determine which should be prioritised (see SAUR v. Argentina para 332, although the ICSID arbitral tribunal did not conduct the proposed balancing exercise). Despite support for proportionality analysis, the employment of this methodology by investment tribunals to resolve conflicts between investment protection standards and obligations sourced from international human rights law should be approached with caution. Whilst proportionality analysis is attractive as a concept, its application in instances of inter-regime normative conflict remains problematic.

Proportionality analysis is a legal construct that provides a methodology for decision makers to balance conflicting rights and interests by using a three-stage test. Initially, the decision maker must determine whether the measure giving effect to the interest being prioritised is capable of achieving its objective.  If so, the focus turns to whether the measure is necessary to achieve its end, or whether a less restrictive, but equally effective measure could be used. Finally, the decision maker addresses proportionality stricto sensu. This final stage evaluates whether the effects of the measure adopted are excessive compared to the competing right or interest that has been infringed. The decision maker should appraise the weight of each interest before a determination is made regarding whether the means used achieve their aim.

The application of proportionality stricto sensu is the most problematic aspect of proportionality analysis. Read the rest of this entry…

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Comparative Public Law Methodology in International Investment Law

Published on January 3, 2014        Author: 

In my last post I argued that investment law should be reconceived as a system of public law adjudication in order to react to current criticism. The debate over the role of public law in investment arbitration has resounded in other discussions in this forum. It requires understanding arbitration not only as a dispute settlement mechanism, but also as a form of global governance; understanding arbitrators not only as agents of the parties, but also as trustees of the international community; interpreting investment treaties in light of their global implications; and increasing transparency and third-party participation. In other words: Public law rationales should guide the practice of investor-State arbitration.

This framework has important methodological consequences. Under a public law approach to international investment law, parallel problématiques in domestic public law and in other international legal regimes should be studied in order to resolve investor-State disputes in ways that are acceptable to all stakeholders. Comparative public (administrative, constitutional, and international) law, in particular, should become part of the standard methodology of thinking about and interpreting international investment treaties.

Problems with Classical Methods of Treaty Interpretation

Comparative public law is particularly useful because traditional methods of treaty interpretation and reliance on customary international law, while not irrelevant, face significant limits in international investment law. Although numerous inter-State claims commissions existed in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the jurisprudence of these bodies often concerns issues that are different from problems faced by modern regulatory States. Likewise, traditional methods of treaty interpretation often are too vague to guide the application of international investment treaties. In interpreting, for example, fair and equitable treatment provisions, an interpretation of the ordinary meaning may replace the terms “fair and equitable” with similarly vague and empty phrases such as “just,” “even-handed,” “unbiased,” or “legitimate,” but does not succeed in clarifying the standard’s normative content, nor does it indicate what is required of States in specific circumstances. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Public Law Paradigm in International Investment Law

Published on December 3, 2013        Author: 

In my last post, I discussed the virtues of investor-State arbitration and suggested that this dispute settlement system could react to current criticism by reconceptualizing the system from within. To succeed, a reconceptualized system would have to provide an accountability mechanism to implement the rule of law that produces results similar to those of other accountability mechanisms for the control of government authority, whether at the national or the international level. Thinking of investor-State arbitration as a mechanism that is similar to judicial review, and adopting the methods and results of such mechanisms, in my view, is the key to reforming international investment law. This means appreciating international investment law as a public law discipline and an instrument of global governance.

Prevailing Mindsets in Investment Treaty Arbitration

Yet, in practice the view prevails that investor-State arbitration is primarily a mechanism to settle individual legal disputes. In fact, lawyers with either a commercial arbitration or a public international law background –the two approaches that most actively shape international investment law and arbitration at present – stress such a limited function of arbitration, while having divergent views on what the rule of law may mean in this context. Those coming from commercial arbitration tend to stress the private nature of dispute settlement; for them the rule of law means faithfulness to party consent, party autonomy, and sanctity of contracts. Public international lawyers, by contrast, tend to emphasize the embeddedness of investment treaty arbitration in a public world order that imposes constraints on State conduct under international law. Their idea of the rule of law is connected more strongly to the idea of limiting the exercise of public authority by procedural and substantive conditions, but their thinking often remains grounded in an inter-State context.

Responding to the Public Law Challenge

Yet, neither a pure international law understanding nor a pure commercial law understanding of investor-State arbitration appears sufficient in itself to comprehend the specific characteristics of international investment law and the challenges the system faces. These challenges, I submit, stem from a disconnect between a broadly held view of the role of investor-State arbitration, on the one hand, and the details of its actual functioning, on the other. It is widely expected that investor-State arbitration should fulfill a role similar to that of judicial review under domestic administrative and constitutional law, subjecting host State public authority to an understanding of the rule of law that focuses chiefly on restrictions in the relations between public and private actors. However, arbitral review of public authority as actually implemented does not conform to public law standards. Specifically, the requirement that the reviewing powers themselves meet public law standards of the rule of law and democracy is absent. Neither commercial arbitration nor public international law approaches can grasp these challenges adequately because they do not sufficiently capture the public law nature of international investment law. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Virtues of Investor-State Arbitration

Published on November 19, 2013        Author: 

In my last post I discussed the different options for reforming investor-state dispute settlement put forward in a recent UNCTAD policy paper and argued that enacting institutional reforms without addressing substantive law is unlikely to fully address investment law’s legitimacy problems. Instead, I suggested that the current regime could be reformed from within, that is, by arbitrators bringing their conduct in line with public law values, in particular the idea of the rule of law. Today, I want to discuss the virtues of investor-State arbitration in order to show why reforming this institution from within, rather than restricting access to it, or completely overhauling it, makes sense.

The Importance of Individual Recourse to Investor-State Dispute Settlement

Investor-State arbitration is important because, above all, it offers foreign investors a mechanism to hold States accountable for breaches of the promises they make in investment treaties. This transforms investment treaties from political declarations into readily enforceable rules to stabilize investor-State relations. Conversely, from the host State’s perspective, the investor’s access to arbitration enables States to make the commitments vis-à-vis foreign investors under investment treaties credible. This, in turn, reduces the political risk of foreign investment, lowers the risk premium connected to it, and makes foreign investment projects more cost-efficient. This benefits investors and host States, as the products and services offered become cheaper.

Certainly, the credibility of commitments of the host State is not only a matter of the availability of dispute settlement. Reputation, community pressure, the moral obligation to keep promises, or host States’ self-interest may also contribute to its living up to promises made in investment treaties. A host State will also be restrained in its treatment of foreign investors as mistreatment of one investor may keep others from investing. Yet, such mechanisms only work imperfectly because host States can benefit by unilaterally breaching their original obligation after an investor has made its investment, for example the construction of a power plant or factory, by imposing additional obligations or even expropriating the investment. For host States to make credible commitments and to offer ways to be held accountable, independent third-party dispute settlement mechanisms are necessary.

Domestic and International Fora and Their Limits

Such mechanisms can be set up at the domestic and/or the international level. However, host State courts are often not well-positioned to enforce governments’ promises vis-à-vis foreign investors. Read the rest of this entry…

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The Nature of Investor’s Rights under Investment Treaties: A Rejoinder to Martins Paparinskis

Published on October 31, 2013        Author: 

Editor’s note: This is the final installment in the discussion begun last week of Martins Paparinskis’s EJIL article, “Investment Treaty Arbitration and the (New) Law of State Responsibility“.

Martins’ reply to my comments on his EJIL article highlights a number of challenging issues regarding the ongoing debate over the direct or derivative nature of investors’ rights under international investment agreements (IIAs). To summarize our disagreement: Martins, on the one hand, views the derivative rights approach “as only one of a number of plausible ways of articulating international law arguments about investment law”; on the other, I remain strongly reluctant towards this polyphony of plausible  articulations, and rather find that the direct rights model is unconvincing.

Martins questions, first, whether the practice of NAFTA Parties indeed favours the derivative model; second, whether international law provides for causality (or even correlation) between the nature of obligations under treaties and the nature of rights derived thereunder; and, third, whether indeed the HICEE v Slovakia award explicitly adopts the derivative rights model. By way of rejoinder to Martins’ reply, I will address the first point separately, and the second and third points jointly. Read the rest of this entry…

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Reforming International Investment Law: Institutional Change v. System-Internal Adaptation

Published on October 30, 2013        Author: 

Stephan Schill4Stephan Schill, LL.M. (Augsburg) 2002; LL.M. (NYU) 2006; Dr. iur. (Frankfurt) 2008, is Senior Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law and Principal Investigator in the ERC project on “Transnational Private-Public Arbitration as Global Regulatory Governance: Charting and Codifying the Lex Mercatoria Publica”.

This is the first in a series of posts on the reform debates in international investment law and investor-state arbitration. These posts are meant both to introduce general international lawyers to a field often still foreign to them and to contribute to the ongoing reform processes as states, supranational organizations like the EU, and international organizations like UNCTAD and OECD are reviewing national and international investment policies. Reforms seem necessary in light of the wide-spread criticism of international investment law and investor-state arbitration. The field is even said to face a “legitimacy crisis” because one-off, party-appointed arbitrators review government conduct in areas sensitive to the public interest in ways that differ significantly from domestic courts. Scrutinizing tobacco labeling legislation in Uruguay and Australia or the German nuclear power phase-out are just two recent examples.

Following Broches: “Procedure before Substance”

Reform proposals abound. Most of them focus on changes to investor-state dispute settlement, not on substantive investment law. Perhaps not surprisingly, reforming often means restricting investor-state arbitration. The recent IIA Issue Note by UNCTAD, “Reform of Investor-State Dispute Settlement: In Search of a Roadmap”, summarizes five paths for reforming investment law:

1) promoting alternative dispute resolution;

2) tailoring the existing system through individual investment agreements;

3) limiting investor access to dispute settlement;

4) introducing an appeals facility; and

5) creating a standing international investment court.

Ironically, stressing institutional reform before addressing questions of substantive investment law follows the same pattern that Aron Broches, then General Counsel of the World Bank, proposed when creating the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the first standing investor-State arbitration forum, in the 1960s. Seeking to overcome the impasse in finding a global consensus on investment protection in times of decolonization and the Cold War, he championed the formula “procedure before substance”. He meant to create a framework for resolving investor-state disputes that could work out substantive rules on the go. Broches’ formula, which later matured into the ICSID Convention, in a sense, released the spirit of investor-state arbitration that over the years started a life of its own and lead to today’s “legitimacy crisis”. As a cure to this crisis, the five reform paths outlined by UNCTAD keep treading Broches’ track of “procedure before substance.” Read the rest of this entry…

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Reply to Howley and Howse

Published on October 24, 2013        Author: 

I am grateful to Jessica Howley and Rob Howse for their thoughtful comments. This post replies to each of their responses.

My response to Jessica Howley will focus on the first and third questions that both, albeit in different ways, challenge my argument that choice is the right criterion for distinguishing the third party model from other approaches. In the first question, Howley wonders whether public interest underlying international human rights could not provide a better explanation for the human rights/investment law distinction than consent. In the third question, she identifies the choice of an individual to become a rights-holder as also present in the diplomatic protection model, thus blurring the distinction between those approaches. I am grateful to Howley for raising questions about the limits of third party model and will answer them in turn, after first briefly outlining my general argument.

Law of third parties and choice

It seems to me that one is on fairly safe conceptual and legal grounds when discussing the tension between elements of inter-State and investor-State dispute resolution in investment treaty arbitration. In my response to Gourgourinis, I sketched some aspects of this tension, and it has been addressed in leading legal writings (in particular by James Crawford ((2002) 96 AJIL 874, 887-8) and Zac Douglas ((2003) 74 BYBIL 151, 160-94). The LaGrand judgment of the International Court also provides some guidance on the criteria for identifying the presence of individual rights in treaty instruments ([2001] ICJ Rep 466 [77]).

My article suggests that that the image of a spectrum of different expressions of inter-State and individual-State elements in the structure of international dispute settlement regimes is right but may be incomplete. A triangle provides a more accurate portrayal of the legal dynamic of investment law. The three corners of the triangle are human rights, diplomatic protection, and third party rights. International law permits creation of rights of non-treaty parties under two regimes – rights of individuals and rights of third parties – that are in many ways as distinct from each other as they are from the inter-State diplomatic protection regime. The distinction between those models is not intuitively clear, but in technical terms the most distinctive element of the law of third parties is a requirement of consent as a precondition for the creation of rights (VCLT arts 34-37). My thesis is that consent and the choice to provide consent are instrumental for the law of third parties but not the law of human rights and law of diplomatic protection, and therefore would provide a convenient analytical perspective for discussing investment law. Howley questions both aspects of the distinction, and I will respond to these arguments in the following paragraphs. Read the rest of this entry…

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