Category Archives: Debate

Host states’ legitimate expectation

Scenic landscapes of Northern ArgentinaThe investor’s legitimate expectations are often a key question in ISDS cases. Such expectations can be based on, for example, the host state’s laws, policies, or contractual commitments – such as when a host state granted the investor mining rights for a certain number of years. A violation of these expectations can be a ground for the investor to bring an ISDS claim against the host government. Several tribunals have ruled that a host country cannot act contrary to the investor’s legistimate expectations.

Karl P. Sauvant and GüneşÜnüvar have written an article published by Columbia Center for Sustainable Investment, introducing the question of whether or not states can also have legitimate expectations towards the foreign investor. According to the article, such expectations may arise from, for instance, the investor’s statements of its contribution to the host country.

As an example, the article points to Sempra v Argentina, where Argentina argued that it “had many expectations in respect of the investment that were not met or otherwise frustrated … (such as)… work diligently and in good faith…”. The article also notes, however, that since governments currently cannot initiate ISDS proceedings against foreign investors, their reliance on legitimate expectations is limited to counterclaims brought in response to investors’ claims. See our previous post about counterclaims here.

Finally, the article proposes that future international investment agreements (IIAs) could explicitly stipulate that host states’ legitimate expectations are protected, thereby establishing a right for host states to bring a claim on this basis.

Former ICJ President Criticizes EU Investment Court Proposal

?????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????In a May 17 address, independent arbitrator and former president of the International Court of Justice Stephen M Schwebel criticised the EU proposal for the establishment of a permanent investment court in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Schwebel spoke in Washington, DC at a public event organized by Sidley Austin, the American Society of International Law, and the District of Columbia Bar Association. Read the full speech here.

The current system of investor-state arbitration – the standard dispute-resolution mechanism in 3,000 bilateral investment treaties – “works reasonably well”, Schwebel noted. He expressed concern that the EC is now seeking to replace that system with “a system that would face substantial problems of coherence, rationalisation, negotiation, ratification, establishment, functioning and financing.” The EU proposal for an investment court, Schwebel argued, is a mere “appeasement” of “uninformed or misinformed critics”.

ISDS critics often presume that an arbitrator appointed by an investor is biased in favor of the investor – a presumption not supported by the record of investor-state arbitration. The EU’s proposal, Schwebel notes, instead risks entrenching pro-state bias by allowing states to appoint all the judges on the investment court, and depriving investors of influence over the appointment process. If the goal is a truly fair and neutral dispute resolution, “is there reason to presume that judges appointed only by states will not be biased in favour of states?”

[ICSID GUEST POST] Appeal, Review, Annulment …. What’s it all about?

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This post is a guest contribution from Ms. Meg Kinnear, Secretary-General of ICSID.

 

The extent to which a legal decision should be reviewable is a question that all legal systems must address.  On the one hand, everyone can agree that decisions should be correct, and that getting the law, the facts and the procedure right are vital to the administration of justice. One of the ways legal systems try to ensure correct outcomes is by having a second body [and in some national systems, a third and even a fourth court!] review the first decision and correct any errors made by the original tribunal.

On the other hand, some argue that an equally important role of legal decision makers is to resolve disputes once and for all, so that the opposing parties have a final outcome, certainty, and the ability to get on with business without spending time and money on legal appeals. Balancing the goals of “correctness” and “finality” is difficult, and defining the right level of review can depend on factors such as cost, timing, the rights in question, and the goals of the legal system.

Discussion about how to balance correctness and finality has also taken place in the international investment context.  Indeed, the States drafting the ICSID Convention debated this question as early as the mid-1960s when they designed the Convention. States finally decided to provide a review called “annulment” which allowed a second look at ICSID awards, but on limited grounds.  These grounds were set out in Article 52 of the ICSID Convention and allowed a new panel [the ad hoc Committee] to annul an award if: [1] the tribunal was improperly constituted; [2] the tribunal manifestly exceeded its powers; [3] a tribunal member was corrupt; [4] there was a serious departure from a fundamental rule of procedure; or [5] the tribunal failed to state reasons for its decision [paraphrased from Article 52 of the ICSID Convention].

In 2004, ICSID issued a public discussion paper outlining possible features of an international investment appeals system.  The paper suggested that an appeal mechanism could be designed to provide a broader range of review on the basis of clear error of law, serious error of fact, or any of the five grounds of review in Article 52 of the ICSID Convention. States decided not to pursue an appeals facility at that time, however ICSID undertook to further study the matter and to offer its assistance and expertise if treaty negotiators decided to pursue this course in the future.

On September 16, 2015, the European Commission [EC] released a draft text on investment under the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership [TTIP].  This draft included a proposal to create an Appeal Tribunal that could review an award issued by an investment tribunal.  The EC proposal builds on the ICSID Convention by suggesting that investment awards under the TTIP could be appealed based on the grounds in Article 52 of the ICSID Convention plus error of law or manifest error of fact [paraphrased from Article 29 of the EC text].

As investment cases grow in number and complexity, and increasingly arise out of an investment treaty, the discussion on the appropriate level of review for such awards will continue. Clearly the task of establishing the optimal level of review between correctness and finality is a difficult one, and it will be interesting to follow treaty negotiations as they grapple with this question.

Ms. Meg Kinnear, Secretary-General of ICSID

A quick read of the EU Commission’s Investment Court Proposal

CommissionYesterday the EU Commission presented its proposal for the investment chapter in the TTIP, which is the result of a long consultation. The text, which runs to almost 40 pages, is available here. It will now be discussed internally in the EU and then put on the negotiating table with the US.

Below we briefly go through some of the noteworthy aspects:

The dispute procedure

-        A “court system” consisting of one Investment Tribunal and one Appeals Tribunal is set up.

-        The tribunals will work under established arbitration rules: ICSID, UNCITRAL or “any other rules agreed by the parties”, depending on the choice of the investor in the particular case. Instead of reinventing the wheel, the Commission is here relying on established practice.

-        While it is positive that the proposal draws so extensively on established arbitration rules, many areas remain where the interaction between the proposal and those rules must be studied further. This is most obvious when it comes to the enforcement of awards, but also other aspects such as the Appeals Tribunal and the appointment of arbitrators need extensive analysis before being included in a treaty.

-        It is made clear that the tribunal only has the mandate to look at cases through the lens of international law. Consequently, domestic law cannot be applied or reviewed by the tribunal.

-        Mediation provisions have been introduced. While mediation is sometimes often possible under the current system (and most disputing parties so far have elected not to mediate) such a procedure makes sense for reasons of efficiency. Mediation is however a challenge from a transparency perspective as it is hard to mediate openly.

The arbitrators/the system

-        The relationship is unclear between this proposal (which is aimed only at the TTIP) and the ambitious but vague multilateral dispute settlement mechanism envisioned by the Commission (which is to set up some sort of World Investment Court in the future). Under Article 12, many parts of the current proposal will cease to apply when/if a permanent multilateral system is set up. With this solution, the Commission is kicking the can further down the road.

-        Arbitrators can only be drawn from a list established by states. This is problematic because one of the two parties (the state) will set the frames for the disputes when the other (the investor) can only appoint from a list pre-approved by the state. Under the current system, each party can freely choose its own arbitrator.

-        States have to negotiate over whom to put on the list of arbitrators. This risks a politicization of the appointments, which is exactly what investment arbitration is intended to avoid.

-        Furthermore, the arbitrators must fulfill an almost impossible list of requirements to be eligible for the list. Annex II – where the arbitrators’ code of conduct is set down – in combination with the requirements in Article 9(4), leave a very small group of people eligible. In practice, depending on how the requirements are interpreted, it is likely that only retired lawyers (and probably only retired judges) will be able to sit as arbitrators. This restricts the parties’ possibility to appoint the most suitable arbitrator and also ensures that only a small elite gets to adjudicate investment disputes.

-        The Appeals Tribunal, allowing the case to be reheard on its merits, is sure to make disputes much longer and much more expensive; the average dispute would likely be twice as expensive as under the current system, which affects both investors and states.

Transparency

-        An express reference to the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules is included. The proposal even goes further than the Rules by making clear that many documents, including everything from proceedings before the Appeal Tribunal, shall always be made public.

-        The proposal extends the possibility for third parties to intervene. While the general tendency towards transparency is desirable, Article 23 states that the tribunal “shall permit any natural or legal person which can establish a direct and present interest in the result of the dispute”. This seems to (i) restrict the tribunal’s discretion by saying that it “shall” allow such submissions and (ii) considerably widen the scope of who shall be allowed to file submissions. In comparison, the UNCITRAL Rules on Transparency states that the tribunal “may” allow such submissions, after consulting the parties and only if it finds the submission could be helpful.

 

Investment Treaty Forum in Stockholm

ITFSeminarThe Investment Treaty Forum was recently held for the first time in Stockholm.

The British Institute of International and Comparative Law, in cooperation with the SCC, Mannheimer Swartling and Uppsala University, organized Investment Treaty Forum in Stockholm on 12 June 2015.

The Investment Treaty Forum was founded in 2004 with the aim to provide a global centre for serious high level debate in the field of international law. The theme of the meeting – Europe as an Investment Treaty Actor – brought together speakers and participants from government, legal practitioners, academia, politicians and business. See the full program here.

The importance of investment treaty for European economic development was one of the topics discussed. Investment treaty contributes to predictability, stability and transparency in investment relation. It was further highlighted that investment treaty will benefit not only the industry, but also governments and consumers. Investment treaty has the potential to open up new market opportunities for European investors abroad and also to make Europe a more attractive place for investment. But there were also critical voices raised, questioning the need for investment protection.

The evolution of substantive terms of investment treaty was equally addressed. States retain full control of the regime, among others by issuing interpretation of the treaty and by introducing new provisions of investment protection. The former has been done by the state parties to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the latter by, among others, the European Commission.

The seminar ended with the well-anticipated discussion on the roles of the European Commission in investment law regime. In addition to its role as negotiator of future investment treaty, the Commission has also emerged as litigator and enforcer in the regime.

More pictures and presentation materials from the seminar will be published here shortly.

 Photo: Björn Leijon

 

 

 

Seminar report: ISDS – A Way Forward

AndrinaSeminariumImage2red3BloggThe SCC, in cooperation with the Association of International Arbitration and Brussels Diplomatic Academy of Vrije Universiteit Brussels organized a seminar, ISDS: Away Forward in Brussels, on 27 May 2015. The speakers were arbitration practitioners from Sweden, Belgium and France, including SCC Legal Counsels and representatives from the International Bar Association Subcommittee on Investment Arbitration. Read the full programme here.

The historical background of ISDS was explained, and how the mechanism was established under the ICSID Convention as a response to inefficient diplomatic protection to foreign investors. The discussion continued with the currently-debated issue, ISDS and environmental protection. SCC presented research findings that the number of ISDS cases where investors brought a claim because of environmental regulation is small. The findings from these cases support a conclusion that arbitral tribunals have not questioned the power of government to regulate for environmental protection.

In addition, some procedural aspects of ISDS were addressed, particularly transparency and public participation. The speakers emphasized that this is in fact not a new development, as tribunals have supported transparency and public participation to an increasing extent in the past decade. A new procedural development of ISDS, emergency arbitrator, was also discussed.

A speaker reminded that when discussing reform of the system, public opinion should always be taken into account.  It is important to ensure that the democratic values are preserved. The International Bar Association (IBA) is working on a project to bring together opinions from different stakeholders in ISDS. The ambition is to address the criticisms surrounding ISDS and to propose improvements of the system, when needed.

IBA has also recently published a statement, addressing facts of ISDS.

The dynamic and forward-looking discussion from the participants were much appreciated. More discussions will follow ahead to preserve the rule of law and ISDS.

Just published: A response to the criticism against ISDS

European union flag against parliament in BrusselsThe European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA) recently published the paper “A response to the criticism against ISDS”, addressing 11 specific criticisms commonly voiced by ISDS opponents in the context of the TTIP negotiations.

EFILA is a Brussels-based think tank that brings together leading investment law and arbitration specialists, former judges and investor representatives from various EU member states. To read more about EFILA, go to www.efila.org.

The European Commission Concept Paper on ISDS

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The European Commission has published a concept paper on proposals for a potential future ISDS-mechanism in the TTIP.

According to the paper, a new approach in the EU investment policy is needed, where “a major part of the challenge is to make sure any system for dispute settlement is fair and independent”.

It may be observed that the paper contains no clear elaboration on how the current system is unfair and not independent. In contrast, in our experience the current system in the vast majority of cases does represent the values of fairness and independence.

As a starting point, the paper asserts that the EU has achieved a certain level of ISDS reform as embodied in the EU free trade agreements with Canada and Singapore. The paper addresses “what should be further improved”.

Firstly, the paper proposes an exclusive roster of arbitrators pre-established by State parties of the investment agreement. Several arguments could be raised against such practice. It is impossible to foresee what future disputes under an agreement will look like and what specific expertise will be required. A pre-established roster may constitute an obstacle for the dispute to be resolved by the most suitable arbitrator.

Secondly, the paper proposes an appellate mechanism “to ensure correctness and predictability”. It deserves pointing out that the ICSID Convention or the provisions of New York Convention already serves this purpose. Under the ICSID system, an award can be annulled on procedural grounds, among others if the tribunal manifestly exceeded its powers.

If what is desired is to try the whole case again at the appeal stage, it will significantly increase the time and costs associated the dispute. An appeal mechanism in itself is no safeguard to enhance predictability – this is best achieved by well formulated substantive terms.

Finally, the paper foresees the creation of “a permanent multilateral system for investment disputes”. The Commission seems to ignore that such system is already in place through the Washington Convention and the ICSID system, which has been endorsed by more than 150 states.

The impression is that the reform proposals were made based on “perception”, or more precisely, misperception on the system. A stronger emphasis on empirical evidence would better serve a higher standard in the decision-making process ahead.

For more information, read the SCC’s remarks on the Concept Paper here.

The IBA on ISDS

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The International Bar Association, which has a membership of 55,000 individual lawyers across the globe, recently published a paper on ISDS. It is not only fact-based, but it also brings out some unfounded claims about ISDS that have not been widely addressed.

The paper mentions that it would be incorrect to state that ISDS is biased against developing countries as data on ISDS show no correlation between the success rates against states and their income levels.

Neither does ISDS enable investor to make “a fortune” from the system. Data show that even when investors won in ISDS, they have only recovered on average, less than half of the amount they claimed.

ISDS has at times been described as a one-sided system as it only allows investor to bring a claim against States. From a legal perspective, whether or not States can equally bring a claim in ISDS entirely depends on the exact language of the international investment agreement (IIA). This means that States retain the option to include this in the IIA. Case law also demonstrate that State-owned companies have frequently used ISDS.

Above all, it is not true that ISDS is not needed when domestic courts are already sophisticated. ISDS concerns questions of international law, hence international tribunal is needed to resolve those questions.

The IBA is further taking an initiative to analyse both the benefits and criticism on ISDS to make it a better system. To this end, the IBA is engaging with governments from both developed and developing countries, arbitral institutions, corporations and the legal profession.

Law professors in support of ISDS

Positive voices in support of ISDS continue to surface – and this time it comes from highly-regarded academics.

Forty seven law professors from various universities recently sent an open letter which seeks to clarify the skewed information surrounding the discussion on ISDS and offers the salient facts on the system.

From the outset, the letter makes a strong case for the relationship between state’s sovereignty, rule of law and ISDS. States enter into investment treaties with ISDS provisions as an exercise of its sovereignty. ISDS, in turn, enforces rule of law as it ensures that states respect their international obligations in such treaties. It is as simple as that.

When it comes to a challenge of regulation to protect public interest, ISDS cases have shown that bona fide government acts have not caused a liability for States to compensate investors. It is also not correct that showing a mere loss of profit is enough for an investor to get compensated – it has to show that a State has done wrong based on the treaty terms.

ISDS is not a completely alienated or ‘private’ system – in many ways it mirrors procedural protections in national courts. Both parties have the right to retain counsel and to submit evidence. Impartial arbitrators can be challenged. The system also works closely, instead of separately, with national courts. For example, a national court may consider whether or not an ISDS award is valid.

Above all, ISDS is governed and supported by both domestic and international laws.

When one takes a careful and diligent look into the legal framework of ISDS and the outcomes of the system, it would not be surprising to come to the same conclusion as reached by these law professors.

It just takes a willingness to learn and an open mind.