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November 2016

[Below is a reaction to this news from the US on 22 November, from ARC discovery project co-researcher and Prof Leon Trakman, reproduced with permission from the forthcoming Newsletter of the International Law Association's Australian branch. The Newsletter will also include my related but broader AFIA Blog posting with JNU A/Prof Jaivir Singh, "Does ISDS Promote FDI? Asia-Pacific Insights from and for Australia and India".]

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[A version of this posting appears on Kluwer Arbitration Blog on 14 November 2016.]

Critics of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement, and investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) protections more generally, have often argued that a particular concern is that the US is not only a large source of FDI, but that it is ‘the nation whose corporations use ISDS the most’ (referring to ANU’s Professor Thomas Faunce). A recent paper by ANU’s Dr Kyla Tienhaara for the ‘GetUp’ campaign in Australia, in the context of ongoing parliamentary inquiries into ratifying the TPP, contends that Australia is at risk because US investors have brought multiple claims against Canada. (By contrast, Charles-Emmanuel Cote points out that ‘damages effectively awarded or agreed to in settlement so far [amount to] US$147.5 million, or a mere 0.05 percent of all US investment’ into Canada.) More generally, Tienhaara argues :

The biggest users of ISDS are US multinational corporations. This means that entering into a trade deal with the US that includes ISDS provisions – such as the TPP – places a country at high risk of ISDS suits.

The inference is that Americans are particularly ‘litigious’ in the field of investment treaty claims – perhaps like they are purported to be in civil litigation in their home courts. In fact, empirical research into comparative civil dispute resolution patterns had long pointed out that a representative state within the US (in terms of urban/rural population mix, such as Arizona) has fewer filings per capita than countries such as Israel and Germany [Nottage & Wollschlaeger ‘What Do Courts Do?’ [1996] NZLJ 369].

Table A and Figure A-1 in the attached version of this posting confirm that investors from the US had indeed lodged the most ISDS claims by end-2015 (138). Yet, on a per capita basis (per 100,000 people in the home state), US investors are historically less litigious compared to investors from eleven other countries whose investors have filed considerable numbers of ISDS claims. Those states are all in the EU (including Belgium and Luxembourg, which generally conclude investment treaties collectively and whose investors have filed the most claims per capita), except for Switzerland (whose investors become the fourth most litigious) and Canada (the fifth most litigious home state). As further indicated in Table A and Figure A-2, if we group together most of these EU states their investors’ per capita ISDS claim rate is also higher than that for US investors.

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