ISDS reform is already happening

Governments of both sides of the Atlantic have made significant policy revisions of ISDS mechanism over the past few years, as concluded in this recent article.

A decade ago, the U.S introduced transparency and third-party participation in ISDS as provided in its 2004 Model BIT. The current US BIT model, the 2012 model, contains these provisions as well. The 2012 model further provides an opportunity for the investors to discuss the effects of change of regulations with the host government, which may prevent the initiation of ISDS by investors. This model serves as the template for US’ position in the negotiation of future investment agreements.

The European Union has also introduced new elements to the ISDS regime, most notably in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada (“CETA”). The ISDS provision under this agreement contains among others:

  1. Prohibition of parallel proceedings in domestic court or other international tribunals;
  2. Introduction of a fast-track system for rejecting frivolous claims; and
  3. Full transparency in ISDS proceedings.

In addition, the CETA is the first trade and investment agreement which contains a binding code of conduct for arbitrators. The code of conduct obliges arbitrators to continuously disclose any possible conflict of interest as well as to maintain their independency and impartiality. This code of conduct is also included in the draft free trade agreement between the EU and Singapore.

The negotiations of the CETA have been completed and the text will now undergo a legal review followed translation into all official languages of the EU. The agreement will, at the later stage, need to be approved by the Council and the European Parliament.