What caused the rise of ISDS claims?

In a recent report by the European Centre for International Political Economy, Demystifying Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the history of the rise of investment protection and ISDS claims is analyzed.

The report responds to the question whether the increasing use of ISDS is a signal that investors have too much power in challenging actions by States.

It concludes the following:

a. At its core, the number of ISDS cases reflects the amount of investment in the world. The growth of ISDS cases and the growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) largely follow the same trend.

b. The key explanation behind the rise of cases is that the volumes of FDI have grown enormously. A portion of such FDI is made in developing countries and transition economies, hence resulting to greater problems faced by investors.

c. There is a growing support of the principle of international rule of law in commerce, demonstrated by the rising numbers of Bilateral Investment Agreements (BITs), as well as the WTO agreements.

d. The most active claimants in ISDS are investors from EU countries. This is not surprising as the EU is by far the biggest source of FDI in the world, representing 43% of all global outward FDI.

e. ISDS cases are concentrated to specific sectors that are highly dependent on public buyers or political support, for example the electricity sector. This is also not surprising since sectors with significant government involvement naturally have a greater degree of political and regulatory risk.

The increasing number of ISDS cases may be described as an increase of trust and reliance on international law in general, and to international arbitration specifically, both by investors and States.