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.
As governments take action to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent economic collapse, big law firms are watching the virus too. Yet their concern is not to save lives or the economy. Instead the lawyers urge big business to challenge emergency measures in order to defend their profits. In a parallel corporate justice system called ISDS, states could face multi-million dollar lawsuits.
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.
Lora Verheecke, Pia Eberhardt, Cecilia Olivet, Sam Cossar-Gilbert
24 June 2019
Multi-billion dollar lawsuits bleeding cash-strapped nations, corporations reversing victories by environmental defenders and dazzling financial rewards for investors who perpetrated human rights abuses. Ten investor-state lawsuits which have been filed, threatened or decided since 2015, from all over the globe (in Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America), demonstrate that ISDS is again and again used as a corporate weapon against the public interest. This report exposes the true nature of the ISDS regime through 10 recent stories.
Del 1 al 5 de abril de 2019, representantes de unos 100 países se reunieron en Nueva York para hablar sobre el sistema de solución de controversias entre inversores y Estados (ISDS). El ISDS es un instrumento jurídico al que pueden recurrir las multinacionales para demandar a los Gobiernos y exigirles miles de millones de dólares. Observadores externos temen que las nuevas negociaciones se limiten a “poner vino nuevo en botellas viejas”. Consideran que quienes se benefician con este instrumento (países poderosos y abogados de élite especializados en el ISDS) están controlando el debate.
This week, representatives of around 100 countries are meeting in New York to talk about investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). ISDS is a legal instrument that multinationals can use to sue governments for billions. External experts and observers fear that the new negotiations will amount to ‘old wine in new bottles’. They believe that those who benefit from this instrument (powerful states and top lawyers from the ISDS sector) are controlling the debate.
For around 13 years, on the Dutch Trade and Investment Board (a body that is not familiar to most of the Dutch public) top civil servants and company lobbyists have been discussing how the government can support the country’s international trade. Minutes reveal how lobbyists and ministers collaborated in reforming fiscal and development policies in favour of private interests. It’s an example of the power of ‘quiet politics’ of company lobbyists in the Netherlands, calling into question the country’s image as an exemplar of liberal, consensual corporatism.
This weekend, the European Commission announced that the negotiations with Mexico to "modernise" their Free Trade Agreement have been concluded. A key feature of the “modernisation” process is the inclusion of a controversial investment protection chapter with the same characteristics as the one recently included in the Canada-EU trade agreement (CETA).
A push by 39 WTO members, including China, Russia, the EU, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico to reintroduce formal discussions on investment facilitation at the 11th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial conference has failed.
As Trade Ministers from 164 countries meet in Buenos Aires, Argentina this week for the 11 World Trade Organisation (WTO) Ministerial conference,
the Transnational Institute has published a new report that analyses the 234 known investment arbitration lawsuits against Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) states.
The European Commission proposal for a global investor court for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) – known as the Multilateral Investment Court – threatens to enshrine, expand, and entrench the current system of corporate privilege in future trade deals. A world court for corporations would be the capstone in the architecture of corporate impunity, undermining democratic institutions and lawmaking, and worsening the power imbalance that grants rights, protections, and compensation to corporations at the expense of the public interest.
Last year the European Commission announced plans to establish a Multilateral Investment Court (MIC) in its attempt to reform the investment arbitration system, known as ISDS. However, the proposal has received little public scrutiny so far. Now five civil society organisations are organising a public event with international experts to discuss the MIC and examine alternative approaches.
Trade talks between Mexico and the EU commenced this week as efforts intensify to update a free trade agreement signed in 2000. Serious concerns about transparency, human rights, and investor obligations saw more than fifty civil society organisations from Mexico and the EU articulate their concerns in a letter demanding a halt to negotiations until certain criteria are met.
Cecilia Olivet, Kat Moore, Sam Cossar-Gilbert, Natacha Cingotti
08 December 2016
The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal under negotiation between 16 Asian countries would grant corporations exclusive rights to sue governments at international tribunals. This report reveals that investors have launched 50 lawsuits at secret international arbitration tribunals against governments negotiating the RCEP agreement for a total of at least $31 billion US dollars. These lawsuits provide a warning of the potential high costs of the proposed RCEP trade deal. RCEP will deepen the rights of investors and lock in place this system of privatised justice.