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Trade, Economics and Environment

Book Symposium Investment Law: A Reply to Gabrielle Marceau

by Mary Footer

[Dr Mary E. Footer is Professor of International Economic Law at the University of Notthingham, School of Law.]

First of all my thanks to Freya Baetens and Opinio Juris for hosting the Book Symposium on Investment Law and for giving me the opportunity to post details of my chapter. I would also like to thank Gabrielle Marceau for her generous praise of my piece but more importantly for her instructive comments.

In response I shall pick up on one of her comments concerning the issue of “cross-fertilisation” of WTO jurisprudence and investor-state arbitration to which I refer in my chapter. I was unaware of the recent review of a large number of decisions of international courts and tribunals, including investor-state arbitration decisions, that make reference to WTO case law in their findings. While this is an impressive undertaking, I am wondering to what extent those decisions have been analysed and what conclusions, if any, can be drawn from this exercise? For example, is there a trend in investment arbitration to reach out to WTO case law in dealing with principles common to both trade and investment such as the principle of non-discrimination? As I have noted in my chapter, with reference to Occidental v Ecuador not all investment arbitration tribunals have been sympathetic to the importation of WTO case law when interpreting the national treatment standard. Or is the trend more in the procedural sphere, for example with respect to things like the burden of proof – here again there may be limits on the cross-fertilisation of WTO jurisprudence, as was demonstrated in Thunderbird v Mexico.

And what, if anything, can WTO panels and the Appellate Body understand from investor-state arbitration? Are there lessons to be learnt from the way in which investment arbitration tribunals interpret and apply ‘any relevant rules of international law’ in the sense of Article 31(3)(c) of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties? What about the customary international law rule on attribution in the field of state responsibility – in particular where it concerns organs that exercise elements of governmental authority – as suggested by Santiago Villalpando? Could the interpretation of investment treaty-based defences in the form of exceptive clauses for the environment and consumer health and safety or the doctrine of necessity, including ‘economic necessity’, offer any guidance in WTO dispute settlement? Likewise, could the application by investment arbitration tribunals of broader principles of international law, such as good faith, equity and the doctrine of legitimate expectations in investment law yield insights for WTO jurisprudence?

There are of course a host of other contentious issues in the relationship between WTO dispute settlement and investor-state arbitration involving inter alia competing jurisdictional issues, competing fora (giving rise to parallel investment and trade disputes) and the challenge of WTO-inconsistent measures in investment, to name but a few. Many of them are based on systemic differences and structural variations between investor–state arbitration and WTO dispute settlement that I have discussed elsewhere. Instructive in explaining some of the broader issues in this respect is Anthea Roberts who frames the relationship between the investment treaty system and other areas of public and public international law, including international trade law, as a ‘clash of paradigms’.

Book Symposium Investment Law: Comments on Mary E. Footer’s Chapter

by Gabrielle Marceau

[Gabrielle Marceau is Counsellor in the Legal Affairs Division of the WTO and Associate Professor at the Faculty of Law in the University of Geneva. Opinions expressed are personal to the author and do not bind WTO Members or the WTO Secretariat.]

In her chapter “International Investment law and trade: the relationship that never went away Mary E. Footer explores the relationship between the international investment and trade regimes, from various perspectives. Mary’s chapter is a must read; in a few pages you will learn about the history of the evolution of investment and trade agreements and understand their natural interaction. The term “interaction” is important because trade and investment remain two distinct legal systems or legal regimes that interact with each other in various ways.

Mary’s historical analysis of the essentially bilateral nature of investment rules seems quite persuasive and offers a very insightful background for the discussions which follow.  When the author compares this system of bilateral deals with the multilateral nature of the WTO/GATT regime, the reader is provided with informed explanations.

Then Mary E. Footer makes an excellent comparative study of the investment and trade regimes with the purpose of examining the similarities and differences in their approach towards multilateralism.  With respect to what she calls the “investment regime,” she acknowledges that it may be true that the extraordinary number of individual BITs constitute a special juridical regime. Footer highlights that even though the BITs have a similar structure, they nevertheless differ in details. In fact, they differ in detail to such an extent that it would be difficult to argue that they are capable of giving rise to customary international law principles.

With respect to differences and similarities between trade and investment, Footer points out two grounds of divergence: First, the trade regime, through MFN, promotes multilateral liberalization. A majority of BITs, on the other hand, offer controlled entry that reserve the right of the host state to regulate the inflow of foreign investment into its territory. Second, while the investment regime is left with clusters of individual BITs which bind only two states, the WTO represents a common agreement among all Members.  One similarity between the two regimes she argues, is that both proceed with negotiations that are bilateral in character. I would add that another important similarity is that both systems prohibit unjustifiable discrimination. The two systems have, however, adopted slightly divergent approaches on when discrimination is justifiable and when it is not.   In any case, I believe the impact of those similarities and differences should be further analysed and understood.

Of course I can only agree with Mary Footer’s conclusion that the WTO is much more than the sum of its parts and is a dynamic and evolving institution which operates in a more complex regime of norms, decision-making activities and procedures than the GATT. In contrast, the relatively uncoordinated system of bilateral, regional and plurilateral instruments in the field of investment represents something different from the full-fledged multilateral trade regime.

Ultimately, on the basis of her analysis, Mary Footer comes to the following conclusions:

  • The “living apart together” (LAT) relationship between international investment and trade is as strong today as it ever was.
  • In international relations, there is the emergence of different but interconnected treaty regimes in investment and trade.
  • The challenge would lie in determining the extent to which the interaction between international investment and trade is going to lead to either greater convergence or a possible divergence.

The trade and investment debate is not new.  It is important to try to understand why the trade and investment matter was rejected in Cancun. Certainly the investor-state relationship is an extremely difficult issue.  But trade and investment interact naturally.  Investments can be impeded by restrictive trade discrimination for example, and often trade needs investment to start with and to grow. We cannot deny that the interaction between trade and investment is necessary for sustainable development, but it is a complex and multidimensional relationship. And with this chapter, Footer throws light on the different perspectives of this interaction between trade and investment systems or regimes.

I believe that the dispute settlement of both trade and investment systems can learn a lot from each other.  (more…)

Book Symposium Investment Law: International Investment Law and Trade – The Relationship that Never Went Away

by Mary Footer

[Dr Mary E. Footer is Professor of International Economic Law at the University of Notthingham, School of Law.]

The relationship between international investment law and trade has been a constant, if not consistent, one throughout the history of international economic relations. Drawing on the evolution of these two areas of economic activity over the course of six decades, this relationship is examined with a view to understanding its historical and contextual antecedents. The same relationship is also explored from a contemporary perspective. On the one hand, there are similarities and differences in the ‘multilateralisation’ of international investment law and trade. On the other hand, the contemporary jurisprudential nexus between investment and trade demonstrates some linkages on substance and some cross-fertilisation in the interpretative sphere.

Historically speaking, there have been numerous attempts by states, beginning with bilateral treaties of friendship, commerce and navigation (FCN treaties) through to the failed multilateral instrument – Havana Charter for an International Trade Organisation (ITO) –  that have sought to regulate international investment within the context of a broader trade or commercial treaty regime. Sometimes states have used fora like the UN General Assembly, the OECD or UNCTAD, or have turned to other, ‘soft’ law instruments in order to maintain the relationship. Some of these instruments were aimed at the protection of foreign property, others at disciplining the activities of transnational corporations (TNCs) in the matter of investment and trade.

Proceeding along parallel, but separate tracks, from the late 1940s in the case of international trade law, and the late 1950s in the case of foreign investment, the two are bound by inter-connected developments in both regimes. The GATT 1947 multilateral trading system – emasculated and with shortcomings in its means for resolving trade disputes – eventually matured into a vastly expanded World Trade Organization (WTO). Subsequently, the WTO regulates some aspects of cross-border investment in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) together with trade-related investment measures (TRIMs) in the goods regime, supported by a rules-based dispute settlement system with strong enforcement powers.

By contrast, international investment law has been shaped by a burgeoning network of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and customary international law. Both the network of BITs and the customary international law regime of investment focus on the protection of foreign property and strong investor protection standards. There is also strong reliance upon a decentralised system of investor-state dispute resolution, circumscribed only by the limits of state responsibility.

It has been argued elsewhere that this network of BITs forms a dense treaty-overarching legal framework for international investment, based on uniform principles, the functions of which are analogous to a truly multilateral system for investment. This view is disputed by the current author on the grounds that international investment and trade are based on different organising principles, display dissimilar approaches to the reciprocal nature of investment and trade obligations, and are governed by separate treaty regimes.

Such similarities and differences notwithstanding, the contemporary relationship between investment and trade is still significant. In terms of substantive provisions this can be seen with the principle of non-discrimination, as exemplified by the standards of MFN and national treatment, which is common to both investment and trade. In the interpretative sphere there has been a move towards some cross-fertilisation of WTO jurisprudence in investor-state arbitral practice and vice-versa.

The foregoing analysis leads to the conclusion that the link between international investment law and trade has never gone away. It also raises questions about the future of that relationship. In particular, it enquires as to the extent to which the interaction between international investment law and trade is leading to either greater convergence or possible divergence between the two in terms of rule-making and dispute settlement.

Book Symposium Investment Law: A Reply to van Aaken

by Anastasios Gourgourinis

[Dr Anastasios Gourgourinis is Lecturer in Public International Law at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Faculty of Law, and Research Fellow at the Academy of Athens]

I am very grateful to Anne van Aaken for her challenging and insightful comments on my chapter “Reviewing the administration of domestic regulation in WTO and investment law: the international minimum standard as ‘one standard to rule them all’?”, as well as for providing me the opportunity to further expand and explain my argument. She essentially poses two questions: whether the simultaneous qualification of traders as investors and vice versa, is feasible; and whether the arbitral interpretations of the fair and equitable treatment standard (FET) contained in international investment agreements (IIAs) reconfigure the content of the customary minimum standard of treatment of aliens (MST).  Based on the above, van Aaken questions my conclusion that, under the influence of MST  permeating the trade and investment disciplines, the same set of facts regarding the administration of domestic regulation may indeed give rise to successful challenges brought before either the WTO dispute settlement body or investment arbitration tribunals. I will hence attempt to address these concerns.

Traders qua investors and vice versa

From the outset, I must note that the chapter’s analysis was founded upon (rather than intending to scrutinize and put to the test) the working hypothesis that foreign traders may qualify as foreign investors under IIAs, and vice versa. In other words, this constituted a scenario which is plainly feasible, rather than omnipresent, in so far as the realities of international trade and investment are concerned.

Anne van Aaken, on the one hand, suggests taking a functional view, based on economic and management theory, so as to further explain and expand on this proposition, and rightly so: I do agree that there is much more to be written in this respect, deserving special treatment in a separate study where multidisciplinary perspectives may indeed contribute significantly.

On the other, van Aaken cautions about the normative aspects of my hypothesis, i.e. whether foreign traders may, in principle, qualify as investors under IIAs, especially in view of the very recent Apotex v. USA Award on Jurisdiction and Admissibility  under Chapter Eleven of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). This is where we disagree, for a number of reasons.

Book Discussion Investment Law: Comments on Gourgourinis

by Anne van Aaken

[Prof. Dr. Anne van Aaken is Professor of Law and Economics, Legal Theory, Public International Law and European Law at the University of Sankt Gallen, Switzerland.]

Freya Baetens has done a terrific job of collecting and editing papers by young as well as very versed scholars on a timely topic; namely the integration of international investment law in public international law. Lurking behind is the more general discussion on fragmentation of international law; an issue considered so seriously by the international community that the International Law Commission constituted a study group led by Martti Koskenniemi which issued its report in 2006 and still sets the basic frame for discussion. Surely, investment law was never meant to exist in clinical isolation, and detailed accounts on the relationship between investment law and other law are always helpful. Part IV of the book deals with international investment, international trade and developing countries. I comment on one article: “Reviewing the administration of domestic regulation in WTO and Investment Law: The International Minimum Standard as ‘one standard to rule them all’?” by Anastasios Gourgourinis.

Gourgourinis aims to show that although trade and investment regimes are different on many accounts, they share a common core: the customary international law standard of minimum standard of treatment of aliens (MST). By juxtaposing equitable treatment provisions he submits that “the same set of facts regarding the administration of domestic regulation can give rise to successful challenges brought before either the WTO or investment arbitration tribunals.” He rightly points out that trade and investment cannot be viewed separately from each other in a globalized economy. His conclusion, drawing on case law especially in investment law, is that traders can also qualify as investors. I have two comments on that. First, I would suggest that this argument could be strengthened by – based on economic and management theory – taking a more functional view on why – with a view on domestic regulation – it is partially irrelevant for economic activity whether domestic regulation is targeting trade or investment. Both kinds of regulation are, depending on the sector and the type of investment/trade, partially substitutable from a business actor´s point of view. Second, I would caution about the normative conclusion of the simultaneous qualification of traders also as investors. Whether traders qualify as investors has been discussed for a long time (just as the other criteria for an investment), but the question is especially delicate in the light of the Apotex v United States tribunal (NAFTA, Decision from June 2013, that is after publication of the book). The tribunal stated that Apotex’s “activities with respect to the contemplated sales of its . . . products in the United States are those of an exporter, not an investor,” declining jurisdiction. Regardless of whether this decision is right or wrong, what is important is to discuss the consequences (economic and otherwise) of granting investor status to traders, conflating trade and investment regimes through the back-door. Economic as well as political economy reasons might exist why states don’t treat traders and investors alike, in spite of functional partial equivalence.

What follows is an in-depth and thorough analysis of MST as custom as well as the norms and case-law of WTO law and investment treaties. Gourgourinis argues that the MST, since it applies to all aliens and since it is custom, applies to investors and traders alike. It constitutes a “floor” of treatment and permeates, in his view, the proper administration of justice of domestic regulation vis-à-vis aliens. He does a tremendous job in selecting the norms in the WTO agreements which have MST cores for transparency and procedural justice, e.g. Art. X: 3 GATT or Art. VI GATS, uncovering minimum due process guarantees inherent in those norms. He does the same for norms containing the prohibition of arbitrariness, e.g. Art. XX GATT and Art. XIV GATS. He then attempts to demonstrate that those “provisions of the WTO agreements as minimum standard of treatment of foreign traders are essentially identical to the (customary) international minimum standard of treatment of foreign investors,” thereby zooming up the MST. He then looks at the “fair and equitable treatment” standard (FET) and its interpretation in investment law, although he acknowledges that depending on the respective treaty FET is either referring to MST or it is viewed as s self-standing standard.

I take issue with equating the MST with FET or rather the other way around: redefining the MST through certain interpretations of the FET or the WTO provisions. (more…)

Book Symposium Investment Law: The International Minimum Standard of Treatment of Aliens and Administration of Domestic Regulation under WTO and Investment Protection Law

by Anastasios Gourgourinis

[Dr Anastasios Gourgourinis is Lecturer in Public International Law at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens Faculty of Law, and Research Fellow at the Academy of Athens]

Let me start by extending a warm thanks to Freya Baetens for her overall care, diligence and patience as the editor of Investment Law within International Law: Integrationist Perspectives, the publication of which is very timely and indeed. I am also grateful to Opinio Juris for hosting this Book Symposium, as well as to Anne van Aaken, who I am privileged to have as commentator of my chapter entitled “Reviewing the administration of domestic regulation in WTO and investment law: the international minimum standard as ‘one standard to rule them all’?”. In this post, I briefly summarize the chapter’s key points.

The interaction between the legal standards established under the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreements and international investment agreements (IIAs) has steadily and increasingly become important in international judicial practice. Perhaps the most recent and controversial illustration of this interaction can be found in the plain packaging disputes against Australia, currently ongoing in parallel before the WTO dispute settlement panels (see here, here, here and here), as well as arbitral tribunals established under bilateral investment treaties (see here). For, what all these disputes share in common is the set of the underlying facts complained of, i.e. Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011, and related laws and regulations, allegedly in violation of Australia’s obligations both under the WTO covered agreements and the Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong for the Promotion and Protection of Investments of 1993.

Hence, in the greater context of the debate regarding the relationship between WTO and investment protection law, Nicholas DiMascio and Joost Pauwelyn have undertaken a thorough study on non-discrimination standards in the WTO covered agreement and IIAs. They persuasively concluded that ‘investors cannot assume that they will prevail on a national treatment claim before an investment tribunal even if their country has earlier prevailed on the same claim at the WTO, and vice versa’ (p. 88).

But does the same apply also with respect to equitable standards of treatment also found both in WTO agreements and IIAs? (more…)

Book Symposium Investment Law: Comments on Ambach

by Howard Morrison

[Judge Howard Morrison is a Judge at the ICTY and the ICC]

Dr. Philipp Ambach deals with a topic that is contemporary and contentious.

In a world where the globalisation of most aspects of human life and endeavour is readily apparent it cannot be that case that those who engage in commercial, and often highly profitable, enterprises that have an impact upon the commission of serious crimes have no responsibility and affected communities no redress.

The author deals with the historical foundations of the concept of transnational corporate actors and notes the lacunae in the statutes of the UN ad hoc tribunals in respect of dealing with ‘legal persons’ as opposed to individual liability and potential guilt.

Dr Ambach points out that the exploitation of natural resources in conflict zones can easily further destabilize such situations and may be funding one or more parties to a conflict. Indeed if one examines the ongoing situation in the DRC it is arguable that the conflict is not parallel to such commercial activity but is generated by it and the territorial disputes that surround it. Resource wars, most particularly in a world of exponentially increasing human population, are with us and likely to increase, a situation not lost on the UN bearing in mind UN SC Resolution 1856 (2008). It is ironic that human rights may decrease proportionally with population growth.

The author examines how crimes against humanity and war crimes may be perpetrated by international corporate actors including in internal armed conflicts and cites relevant judgements of the ICTY and ICTR. He focuses on the war crime of pillage which has especial resonance, in particular noting that the ICC requires a qualitative requirement of personal or private use in contradistinction to the definition in the ad hocs.

Dr Ambach also examines genocidal liability and points out the potential although rightly noting the difficulty imposed by the requirement to possess a relevant specific destructive intent. He goes on to examine the crime of aggression and its current limitations.

The author makes a careful analysis of criminal responsibility distinguishing between those of corporate and individual actors  examining the legal requirements in differing national jurisdictions. He makes the important point that whilst there is yet to be a clear or common position in international law regarding the liability of international corporations for international crimes  there is a logical, if sometimes evidentially difficult, route top the liability of individual corporate officials and, perhaps, most obviously CEOs. It is important to remember that at its base level any corporation is simply an assembly of like minded individual pursuing a common commercial enterprise. The prosecution of just one senior director or executive sends a powerful message to the commercial world and should have practical and ethical consequences.

Dr Ambach goes on to examine modes of liability and discusses the vexed question of joint criminal enterprise as against co-perpetration. Making a specific analysis of Article 25 of the Rome Statute he goes on to point out the more obvious practical evidentiary obstacles and the position of an accessory by a virtue of being a corporate representative. It is important to examine Article 25 in all its parts. Dr Ambach takes the reader through the wording and interpretations with useful clarity.

He points out that the representatives of corporations may well have the sufficient mens rea to found liability under the statutes of both the ad hoc tribunals and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. He makes the important point that the law relation to aiding and abetting such offences is far from clear and settled; indeed it is an aspect of the modes of liability that needs to be clarified and standardised to provide both a route to indictment and clarity for legitimate commercial actors.

This is an interesting and well thought through contribution by Dr Ambach which provides a very useful route into this important arena of international law for both the scholar and practitioner alike. He, in my view, rightly concludes that it is time to adjust the system on international criminal justice to the ‘modern landscape of perpetrators of the worst crimes in armed conflict’. This is a proposition difficult to argue against at any level. The reticence of some States to move this area of law forward in a decisive common international endeavour is, at the least, worrying for many tens of thousands of predominantly powerless citizens who are seriously, and too often fatally, affected by the activities of sometimes cynical corporate actors.

Book Symposium Investment Law: International Criminal Responsibility of Transnational Corporate Actors Doing Business in Zones of Armed Conflict

by Philipp Ambach

[Dr. Philipp Ambach is the Special Assistant to the President of the International Criminal Court. The views expressed are those of the author alone and cannot be attributed the International Criminal Court.]

The vast majority of armed conflicts of our times is, if not based on, at least closely tied with the economic interests of the belligerent parties or stakeholders behind the scenes. Business corporations which maintain trade relations with partner groups or entities that are, at the same time, engaged in an internal or international armed conflict may become directly or indirectly involved in the commission of serious crimes. Many international corporate actors provide financial resources to regional armed groups through the trade of goods that are the product of exploitation of natural resources in conflict zones, such as gold, diamonds, oil, uranium and other precious or strategic resources (so-called ‘resource wars’). These economic transactions often destabilize the region affected by armed conflict and even put oil on the fire of a looming conflict if the economic transactions serve to strengthen one or the other or both warring parties in the conflict.

Those economic actors involved may incur criminal liability if they are aware that their goods or funds serve to provide these armed groups with weapons or other means of warfare subsequently used against civilians. The crimes committed may amount to international crimes such as war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide. In such cases, corporate actors may even come under scrutiny by the International Criminal Court (‘ICC’) for their participatory role in such crimes, if the individual criminal liability of the person(s) in control of such financial transactions on behalf of a corporate actor can be established.

International courts and tribunals have devoted little to no attention to the issue since the post-World War II criminal proceedings held against German businessmen who had been economically involved in the war (See the discussion by Nerlich). Also the UN ad hoc-Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, set up in the mid-nineties, and the ICC (which became operational in July 2002) have been set up to try individuals for international crimes; their statutes do not provide for criminal liability for corporate actors, as they are based on the principle of individual guilt for criminal conduct (nulla poena sine culpa). In contrast, companies have a corporate (not: individual) identity and are legally best described as ‘legal persons’ – to which the concept of individual guilt cannot easily be ascribed. However, even in larger corporations decisions on specific transactions are being taken by a rather small panel of senior stakeholders who are heading the corporation. Despite their remoteness from the crimes committed on the ground, individual criminal liability may attach to them if each individual only knew that the immediate effect of their business transaction would be the (continued) commission of crimes.

Individual criminal liability of representatives of corporations for international crimes can be ascribed broadly in two forms: either the company representative acts in close cooperation with his or her business partners as a co-author of crimes commonly envisaged; or the individual corporate actor’s contribution to the crime is of an auxiliary nature while the design and control over the crime is left to the business partner.


Book Symposium Investment Law: Comments on Gleider I. Hernandez

by William Burke-White

[William W. Burke-White is Deputy Dean and Professor of Law at University of Pennsylvania Law School.]

I am delighted to have this opportunity to engage with the excellent chapter by Gleider Hernandez on the interaction between investment law and the law of armed conflict. The chapter makes an important contribution to an under-studied area of law, namely the interplay of international investment law and other specialized subfields, particularly international humanitarian law. I am hopeful that this chapter will open a broader discussion in this space, which is of both significant jurisprudential and practical consequence.

Let me say at the start that I agree with Gleider’s overall approach. Both international investment law and international humanitarian law are specialized sub-fields of public international law, both fields frequently reference public international law generally, and both should be treated as part of the broader system of public international law. Perhaps as a consequence of the growing depth of particular subfields of international law or the nature of issue-specific scholarly inquiry today, all too often fields such as these are studied in isolation. As a result, their interactions are often overlooked and possibilities for mutual synergy (or conflict) are neglected. I credit Gleider (and the editors and contributors of the volume as a whole) for taking on these interactions directly and examining closely the way these fields overlap and interact.

Turning to the substantive question, however, I would take a somewhat different approach. (more…)

Book Symposium Investment Law: The Interaction Between Investment Law And The Law Of Armed Conflict In The Interpretation Of Full Protection And Security Clauses

by Gleider Hernandez

[Dr Gleider I. Hernandez is a Lecturer at Durham Law School]

I am grateful to the organisers of this symposium on the collection, edited by Dr Baetens, on the interaction of international investment law (‘IIL’) with other areas of public international law (‘PIL’). Broadly speaking, I identify as a ‘generalist’ international lawyer, one who is interested in the system as a whole and how its organs and agents grapple with emerging problems of global governance. As such, when I was approached in 2011 to consider and address the interaction between two specialised regimes within international law, I leapt at the opportunity to consider how the law of armed conflict, and specifically, international humanitarian law (jus in bello or ‘IHL’), a distinct legal regime that, in its modern form, has been developing through multilateral treaty practice for well over a century, would be considered within the sphere of international investment law, a relatively new area of international law that has blossomed in the last two decades, yet primarily through bilateral treaty practice and through a rich body of case law.

The results were very interesting. With abundant treaty practice in which bilateral investment treaties (BITs) embedded variously-termed clauses providing for protection and security in various forms, the interaction and possible conflict of norms between these two specialised regimes was inevitable. Indeed, factually speaking, a substantial portion of modern investment disputes have arisen precisely through the continued scourge of armed conflicts between and within States. As such, two questions needed to be considered: first, the manner through which public international law has addressed and considered the effects of armed conflicts on rights and obligations, and whether generalised, abstract rules and principles can be distilled; and secondly, whether practice in the area of investment law—specifically treaty practice in BITs and the interpretation of such treaties by specialised investment tribunals—could be said to be in harmony with the general international law framework.


Book Symposium Investment Law: Comments on Vid Prislan’s Chapter

by Kathleen Claussen

[Kathleen Claussen is a Legal Counsel at the Permanent Court of Arbitration. The views expressed in this post are those of the author only and do not reflect any view of the Permanent Court of Arbitration or its staff.]

Vid Prislan’s chapter on non-investment-treaty obligations in investment treaty arbitration tackles a common issue in tribunal decisionmaking that has not been fully theorized or understood. His work advances that effort by examining ways in which tribunals take account of non-investment-treaty obligations and by acknowledging that these methods may be viewed as insufficient for responsible administrative governance on the part of state actors. Thus, he concludes that states should undertake efforts to amend treaty language so as to accommodate all their obligations and interests and to “ensure greater predictability and coherence in the interpretation of treaty terms.”

Prislan’s chapter touches on two important themes. On one hand, the chapter is a commentary on state obligations. It speaks to how states can better manage their international obligations, as well as their domestic obligations, with an eye toward avoiding conflicts between them. From a second angle, Prislan makes a contribution to the debate on the future of the international investment law “system” or “regime.” On either reading, the chapter provides some useful takeaways; this short post makes some brief comments on each.

Prislan focuses on the conflicts he perceives between and among treaties and domestic law. He outlines ways through which these perceived conflicts might be resolved using interpretative tools. Certainly, others would argue that investment treaties in particular are designed with that in mind to allow states to maintain many of their obligations through exception provisions or through clauses permitting a state to accept liability by compensating an investor in full, and thus, what Prislan views as “conflicts” are in fact provided for in the instruments themselves, even if only implicitly. Prislan nevertheless sets out to sketch a means of harmonizing state obligations in an effort to avoid asking arbitral tribunals to reconcile or resolve seemingly incompatible obligations.

In so doing, Prislan emphasizes the limited flexibility of arbitral tribunals – limited by the scope of interpretative methods. An equally interesting discussion could be raised as to who should decide how perceived conflicts among instruments will be resolved. Interpretative tools are not limited to the use of arbitral tribunals; rather, reconciliations among competing obligations are made by a wide range of actors. At least for purposes of his chapter, Prislan accepts that arbitral tribunals are the default interpreters without questioning the larger design that sets up tribunals as the front line of decisionmaking. Have states made a mistake in electing to have these matters resolved by a panel of three non-governmental decisionmakers rather than an apparatus among the government’s own administrative machinery? Perhaps what underlies Prislan’s analysis is a recommendation that states take themselves out of such now common dispute resolution mechanisms where such competing obligations are managed in these ways.

This consideration brings us to think about another reading of Prislan’s chapter: as a commentary on the future of the investment system. (more…)

Book Symposium Investment Law: Non-Investment Obligations in Investment Treaty Arbitration – Towards a Greater Role for States?

by Vid Prislan

[Vid Prislan is a Research Fellow PhD-candidate at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University]

First of all, I would like to thank the editors of Opinio Juris for providing me with the opportunity to briefly present the arguments which I raise in my chapter in Investment Law within International Law: Integrationist Perspectives.

My chapter deals very broadly with the issue of non-investment obligations in investment treaty arbitration. It does so by exploring how investment tribunals can consider (and take into account) arguments based on sources of obligations other than those under investment treaties.

The possibility of considering non-investment obligations has occasionally been questioned by reference to the limited jurisdictional competence of investment tribunals. Indeed, the jurisdiction of these tribunals is not unqualified, but limited by the extent to which the States assented to it in the underlying investment treaty – that is, potentially confined only to pronouncing upon alleged violations of the substantive rights under the treaty. Yet, I argue, first of all, that jurisdictional limitations do not necessarily restrict the scope of the law applicable to the dispute. In most cases, in fact, investment tribunals will enjoy broad latitude with regard to the scope of the legal rules that they are entitled to apply, which makes it possible for them to consider, and indeed apply, obligations other than those under the treaty. Second, I contend that investment agreements were not conceived as self-contained regimes, and therefore, cannot be applied in isolation of other rules and principles of international law. In particular, I argue that, at the very least, rules of customary international law, as well as general principles of law remain applicable, to the extent that their application has not been excluded by the investment treaty as lex specialis.

Even if one accepts that jurisdictional limitations potentially prevent investment tribunals from directly adjudicating upon claims based on non-investment obligations, there is no impediment for investment tribunals to consider these rules when constructing the meaning of the substantive protections laid down in an investment treaty. I suggest that some of the jurisdictional limitations may be overcome by taking account of non-investment obligations in the process of interpreting the provisions of the investment treaty. I focus specifically on three interpretative techniques that can be applied by investment tribunals for this purpose.