Tag Archives: Investment treaty

Morocco and Nigeria sign new investment treaty

BloggIn December 2016, Morocco and Nigeria signed a new investment treaty, which will enter into force once it has been ratified by both countries’ parliaments. The treaty is in many ways an ambitious update of the content often seen in older treaties, and as such a good illustration of the new “generation” of investment protection.

The majority of investment treaties are relatively old: most were negotiated in the 20th century. Many states have expressed concerns over the content of these treaties and reacted by drafting new “model agreements”, renegotiate existing treaties or even terminate old treaties entirely.

The new Morocco-Nigeria treaty is longer than the average older treaty. Among the more innovative features are a clear role for sustainable development, limits and clarifications to the substantive investment protection, as well obligations on the investor (and not only on the host state).

With respect to dispute resolution, both ISDS and state-state arbitration is available. For ISDS, an investor can choose between ICSID and UNCITRAL. In the latter case, the dispute will automatically be covered by the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules, but it is also made clear by Article 10(5) that every dispute shall be characterized by extensive transparency.

The treaty is available here. That two African states decide to sign a bilateral investment treaty is not only an expression of support for such deals: it also shows the path forward in the balancing of investment protection and state interests, in a manner compatible with sustainable development.

 

Transglobal Green Energy v. Panama

Panama2016This case summary is based on the publicly-available ICSID award in the case between the American company Transglobal Green Energy (”Transglobal”) and The Republic of Panama. In the award from June 2, 2016, the arbitral tribunal rejected the case early on and found that the investors attempted to abusively create jurisdiction under an investment treaty.

The case centered around a hydro-electric power plant in Panama. A company owned by Panamian national Julio Cesar Lisac had been awarded a concession to operate the plant for 50 years. After the first year, the Panamian authorities found that Mr. Lisac’s company did not meet the requirements of the concession and therefore terminated the agreement (and later awarded the concession to another company). Mr. Lisac challenged this termination in Panamanian courts.

Subsequent to the termination of the concession, Mr. Lisac transferred part of his company’s interests in the power plant project to Transglobal, a company incorporated in Texas. Using Transglobal’s American nationality, an arbitration was brought against Panama based on the bilateral investment treaty (”BIT”) between USA and Panama. The investors alleged that the termination of the 50-year concession was made in violation of the BIT.

The arbitrators found that they did not have jurisdiction over the case and thus rejected the claim early in the proceedings. Since Mr. Lisac and his comapny both had Panamanian nationality, the move to transfer the interests in the power plant to American-incorporated Transglobal was held to be made with the only purpose of obtaining protection under the BIT between USA and Panama. Therefore the tribunal stated that the investor attempted to create ”artificial jurisdiction over a pre-existing domestic dispute”, thereby abusing the system of investment treaty arbitration.

The tribunal’s reasoning was similar to that in Philip Morris v. Australia, where another tribunal refused to hear Philip Morris’ claims because they were found to constitute an abuse of the investment treaty system.

Both these recent cases demonstrate that there is no room to exploit ISDS to bring unjustified claims. One academic recently described this as a tendency by tribunals to ”police the gates to investment treaty claims against states”.

The First ICSID Case of 2016: Al Jazeera v. Egypt

satellite dishAccording to the ICSID website, the first case registered in 2016 was an arbitration initiated by the global media company Al Jazeera against Egypt.

There have long been indications that Qatar-based Al Jazeera would seek compensation under the Qatar-Egypt bilateral investment treaty for injuries allegedly suffered since the Muslim Brotherhood was overthrown in 2013. In connection with the regime change, the new Egyptian government accused Al Jazeera of being a propaganda machine for the Brotherhood. The Financial Times reported on the dispute already in April 2014:

“The lawyers argue that by arresting and attacking Al Jazeera journalists, seizing the broadcaster’s property and jamming its signal, the Egyptian government has violated its rights as a foreign investor in the country and put the $90m it has invested in Egypt since 2001 at risk.”

It has been held that the arbitral tribunal to be appointed in the case will likely have to determine the extent to which media freedom is protected by the treaty. With this novel issue in the spotlight, the arbitration will likely be closely watched by the news media.

ISDS CASE SUMMARY: Maffezini v. Spain

GaliciaBlogOur next case summary is Emilio Augustin Maffezini v. The Kingdom of Spain (ICSID Case No. ARB/97/7). The summary was prepared based on the award rendered on 9 November 2000.

The claimant was an Argentinian individual who established and invested in a corporation named EAMSA, for the purpose of building a production facility for chemical products in Galicia, Spain. The project was a joint venture with the Sociedad para el Desarrollo Industrial de Galicia(SODIGA), a public-private entity with a mandate to encourage industrial development in Galicia. SODIGA provided the investor with assistance in the form of advice and financing.

The project eventually failed due to surging costs, and the investor filed for arbitration under the Argentina-Spain BIT. The investor claimed (1) that the project failed because SODIGA had given flawed advice underestimating the costs of the project, and (2) that SODIGA was responsible for the additional costs resulting from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) because it had pressured EAMSA to begin construction before the EIA process was finalized. Spain contested the allegations, stating that SODIGA was a private company whose acts were not attributable to the state, and that the investor had assumed any risk relating to the feasibility and profitability of his investment.

On the issue of state attribution, the tribunal found that some of SODIGA’s functions were governmental in nature while others were commercial. Accordingly, the tribunal found that it was necessary to categorize the various acts or omissions giving rise to the dispute. On the investor’s main claim – that SODIGA’s bad advice was responsible for the project’s failure – the tribunal found that even though SODIGA officials had provided certain assistance relating to the project’s costs and returns, that assistance did not amount to a public function attributable to the state. Moreover, the investor was, simply put, responsible for his own investment. The tribunal explained:

“Bilateral Investment Treaties are not insurance policies against bad business judgments. While it is probably true that there were shortcomings in the policies and practices that SODIGA and its sister entities pursued in the here relevant period in Spain, they cannot be deemed to relieve investors of the business risks inherent in any investment.”

The claimant also contended that SODIGA was responsible for the additional costs resulting from the EIA, which lead to the investor’s decision to stop the construction work and call off the project. In this regard, the tribunal concluded that the investor should have known that the project – a chemical plant – would require an EIA. According to the tribunal, the investor had known about the EIA requirement from the beginning of the project, but had tried to minimize it so as to avoid additional costs or technical difficulties.

For these reasons, the tribunal found that Spain could not be held responsible for the investor’s losses.

TPP is signed with ISDS provision

Two globes of EarthOn 4 October 2015, twelve countries representing 40% of the world’s economy signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. These countries consist of the United States, Mexico, Canada, Chile, Peru, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand.

The text is yet to be released but official information about the agreement can be found among others on the U.S government website and the Canadian government website.

The signing of the TPP means that twelve countries with significant share in the world’s economy have been able to agree on one set of investment protection rules. As summarized on the U.S Trade Representatives website, the investment chapter will replicate the terms in the US 2012 Model Bilateral Investment Treaty. The rules require non-discriminatory investment policies and provide terms that assure basic rule of law protections. At the same time the rules ensure governments’ ability to achieve legitimate public policy objectives.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development of Canada, the investment chapter provides access to “an independent ISDS mechanism that is prompt, fair and transparent, and subject to appropriate grounds”.

This means that signing countries find ISDS to be relevant and necessary, not least between developed states. It may be noted that ISDS under the US 2012 Model Bilateral Investment Treaty includes a transparent proceeding and a possibility of a third party to participate in the proceeding. There is a good reason to guess the TPP will include these features too.

How investment protection affects the “right to regulate”

Green paragraph between black paragraphsIn discussions of investment protection provisions in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), issues have been raised regarding the risk of such investment provisions affecting the signatory states’ “right to regulate”.

A report from the Swedish National Board of Trade seeks to bring clarity to these issues by examining how two of the most commonly used investment protection provisions affect states’ “right to regulate”. At the outset, the report explains that the term itself is misleading, for an investment protection agreement never entails a waiver of the states’  right to regulate. Rather, the “right to regulate” in this context refers to the state’s ability to legislate and adopt administrative acts without running the risk of having to pay damages to investors.

Using the concluded trade agreement between the EU and Canada (CETA) and the US model bilateral investment treaty, the report analyzes two investment protection articles that frequently occur in investment disputes, and which also have the greatest potential impact on the state’s “right to regulate”. These two articles relate to (1) fair and equitable treatment and (2) expropriation without compensation.

The “fair and equitable treatment” article protects investors against, inter alia, fundamental breach of due process in judicial and administrative proceedings, manifest arbitrariness, and targeted discrimination. The article is often interpreted to include protection of investors’ “legitimate expectations”, based on the laws, regulations and government commitments that attracted the investment. According to the Swedish National Board of Trade, foreign investors in Sweden already enjoy this type of protection under Swedish law. The article on “fair and equitable treatment” in an investment protection agreement will thus not affect Sweden’s “right to regulate”.

The article regarding “expropriation without compensation” prevents states from nationalizing private property (direct expropriation), or by legislation or other means causing the investor to lose control of the investment or rendering the investment worthless (indirect expropriation). The provision again direct expropriation is broadly consistent with Swedish law; while the provision against indirect expropriation provides investors with some additional protection beyond that offered by Swedish law. According to the National Board of Trade, the expropriation article on the whole has only a slight, if any, impact on Sweden’s “right to regulate”.

The report concludes that, because the protection that these articles provide foreign investors in Sweden is already largely covered by Swedish law, they have a very small impact on Sweden’s “right to regulate”.

Why ICSID was established

national flags of the different states against the blue skyIt is challenging to reach an agreement on a global level on key issues, as shown in the global efforts to regulate greenhouse gas emissions. The investment law regime has long had the same problem. Many attempts to agree on a global standard for the protection of foreign investments have failed because of the countries’ different ideas about which rights to be provided for foreign investors.

It was this failure that motivated the World Bank to establish ICSID (International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes). Instead of regulating the level of protection that foreign investors can rely on – and therefore had proved to be very difficult – the solution was to establish a purely procedural framework for settling disputes by way of the ICSID Convention, which was signed in 1965. The Convention does not provide substantive investment protection. This matter has instead been left to countries to agree among themselves, often at a bilateral level.

By focusing on the procedural aspects rather than on substantial, ICSID has gained great support from countries. In addition, a big problem in the mid-twentieth century could be fixed: State’s intervention in economic matters. Previously, disputes between governments and foreign investors could only be solved by government intervention. In a world where major former colonial powers often faced the newly independent countries, the country with the power often won. In addition, some part of world trade took place with countries with a negative view on market economy, such as those who belonged to Soviet’s sphere of interest. By the establishment of ICSID, the playing field could be evened out and independent dispute resolution was first introduced in world trade. Instead of political power, rule of law would decide the disputes.

In hindsight, this has proven to be a recipe for success for ICSID. The Convention has now been signed by 159 countries and the centre in Washington has administered hundreds of disputes. Furthermore, while global attempts to regulate investment protection have failed, ICSID remains strong. The reason was largely because the majority of the thousands of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) refers to the center to solve disputes. Even in modern times new investment agreement continuously refer to ICSID for the settlement of investment disputes.

Today, there have been ideas to create a global system for settling investment disputes. It may be worthwhile to remember that there is already such a system, which for decades has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of the countries, and that this system was established with the aim of creating a neutral playing field for dispute resolution that otherwise tend to be politicized.

NGO voices in ISDS

Conference table, microphones and office chairs close-up

Beginning in 2001, a number of different NGOs have been active in ISDS proceedings, most commonly in cases with public interest aspects. This includes cases referring to measures related to for example environmental protection and public health.

NGOs may apply to be “a friend of the court”, or commonly referred to as amicus curiae. This means that the organisation contributes with a written submission to assist the tribunal in the assessment of the claims.

Participation of NGOs was initially found only in ISDS cases brought under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The NAFTA parties have issued a joint statement which essentially says that the NAFTA does not prohibit submission of a non-party, in this case may include NGOs.

Methanex Corp v USA was the first case where the tribunal opened up for NGOs to make written submission, which included environmental organizations and research institutes. In addition, these NGOs also attended the hearing. It was followed by Glamis Gold v. USA, where the tribunal received written submission by, among others, a locally-based Quechan Indian Tribe, whose sacred sites and traditions were affected by the investor’s mining project.

Since then the ICSID Arbitration Rules have been amended to clarify that tribunals have the general authority to allow submissions by an organisation which is not a party in the dispute.

NGOs have participated not only in NAFTA cases. In Biwater Gauff v. Tanzania, the tribunal accepted written submission from NGOs with an expertise in human rights, environmental and good governance issues.

A recent development is the participation of international organization in ISDS proceeding, as shown in Phillip Morris v. Uruguay. In this case, not yet decided, the opinions of the World Health Organization (WHO) and the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Secretariat will also be heard, based on the ICSID Arbitration Rules.

In a recent development, the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules, in force as of 1 April 2014, provide that tribunal may allow submission from non-disputing parties for matters within the dispute. Read our previous post on this.

 

 

More environmental languages in IIAs

green leaves background in sunny dayInternational investment agreements (“IIAs”) have increasingly addressed environmental concerns related to investment activity.

Based on a survey conducted by the OECD, inclusion of environmental languages in IIAs is becoming more common. The sample in this survey consists of 1,623 international investment agreements, thus covering roughly half of the global investment treaty population.

The first treaty to include environmental language in the sample is the 1985 China – Singapore BIT. In 2008, 89% of newly concluded treaties includes such language. Further, as we have written before, sustainable development is at the heart of the newly-adopted IIAs in 2014 where most of these treaties include a sustainable development-oriented features.

The most common environmental language is a provision which preserves policy space for environmental regulation. For example, Hungary – Russia BIT provides that the agreement does not preclude the application of measures to protect the environment and public health. Another type is a provision which discourages state parties to lower their environmental standards to attract investments.

Some IIAs have referred to international environmental treaties. The Energy Charter Treaty in its preamble specifically recalls the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The preamble of the new Norwegian BIT draft also recognizes that international environmental treaties are to be interpreted in mutually supportive manner.

Overall, 30 of the 49 countries covered by the survey have included environmental language in at least one of their IIAs. Canada is the country with relatively highest tendencies to include such language (83% of its sample treaties), followed by New Zealand, Japan, the United States and Finland.

 

ISDS in support of climate change mitigation

Environment concept. Glass globe lying on green leaf surfaceThe challenges and future of ISDS was discussed at length recently in Warsaw at an international event organized by Lewiatan Court of Arbitration.

One of the topics addressed was how the investment protection regime can contribute to a better environment. SCC Secretary General Annette Magnusson, who have spoken and written on this topic on several occasions before, addressed the audience on the need for visionary treaty terms in future treaties.

-  If we can combine treaty terms that truly reflect the role played by private investments for a better environment, and the existing enforcement mechanisms of international arbitration, I believe true progress for the environment could be achieved on a global level, Annette Magnusson said.

The full speech is available here.

Read more about ISDS and sustainable development:

Environment Needs Visionary Treaty Drafting

Climate Change Justice Calls for Enhanced Legal Regimes

Investment Law Reform and Sustainable Development