Peru, Mexico, Argentina, Bolivia and Guatemala are just some of the Latin American countries being hit by the investment protection regime in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Foreign investors are threatening to bring claims before international arbitration tribunals due to the measures states are taking to mitigate the effects of the pandemic. Arbitrators are refusing to accept states’ requests to postpone ongoing arbitration cases and are obliging governments to disburse millions to investors at a time when public funds are required for more urgent priorities. Once again, the current crisis reveals the perverse consequences of the investor-state dispute settlement system and the urgent need to break free from it.
Cecilia Olivet, Lucía Bárcena, Bettina Müller, Luciana Ghiotto, Sara Murawski
20 April 2020
The fact that we are marking the 1000th ISDS claim in the middle of a profound social and economic crisis should be a wake-up call. Just as the pandemic is revealing profound health inequities and the dangers of agroindustrial food systems, it is also showing the dangers of trade and investment systems that put corporate profits above health and life.
By the end of August 2019, African States had been hit by a total of 106 known investment treaty arbitration claims. This represents 11% of all known investor-state disputes worldwide. Between 2013 and 2018, there has been an unprecedented boom of claims against African governments. During these last six years, they received more investor claims than the previous 20 years combined. This paper exposes how the international investment regime affects African countries.
How fair is the investment arbitration system in Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) countries? Are investor-state disputes balanced between national and corporate interests? LAC countries are among the most affected by the investment arbitration system, representing 28.6% of all known investor-state disputes around the world. In particular, Argentina, Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru account for 77.3% of the total number of claims against LAC countries. Analysis shows that the system so far heavily favours corporate interests. Investors have won in 70% of the cases brought against LAC countries. As a result, LAC States have already had to pay foreign companies 20.6 billion USD, which could cover Bolivia’s budget for health and education for four whole years.