This is part of a Note that critically reviews The Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014, drawing on my written Submission and subsequent Senate Hearings. The fully footnoted version will appear in the next issue of the CIArb's "Australian ADR Reporter". The Note is part of an Australian Research Council Discovery Project (DP140102526) funded over 2014-2016 jointly with Dr Shiro Armstrong and Professors Jurgen Kurtz and Leon Trakman. The topic will also be discussed at the Law Council of Australia’s 2014 International Trade Law Symposium, 18-19 September, Canberra.
Corporate governance and FDI
Requirements or inducements for (especially listed) company boards to adopt a minimum number or proportion of "independent" directors (IDs), who are not executives as well as free from other relationships that might impede their capacity to exercise independent judgement on behalf of the company as whole, are spreading through the Asian region. This is rather curious, as many countries (including in fact Australia) have a tradition of large non-institutional blockholders, which typically have the capacity and incentive to exercise shareholder rights to extract information and influence the management and direction of the company. The need for IDs is therefore reduced, compared to countries with more dispersed shareholders, such as the US and especially the UK. However, blockholders can take advantage of dispersed shareholders, so the latter (or policy-makers more generally) may still press to have more IDs on boards. Yet blockholders can be expected to lobby to resist such measures, and anyway the impact of IDs on corporate performance may be less in such jurisdictions.
This backdrop may explain the difficulties in introducing requirements for IDs into Japan, despite calls for more IDs in the wake of corporate failures (such as Olympus) and the enactment of the Companies Reform Act on 20 June 2014 (after extensive deliberations). But it is also consistent with the history and reality of IDs in Australia's listed companies. Below is the Abstract for a detailed draft paper comparing Australian developments, co-authored with my colleague Fady Aoun, for the Berlin conference / book project on "IDs in Japan and other Major Asian Jurisdictions" (click here for a PDF of our Powerpoints), as well as the third joint research conference for USydney, UGeneva, Harvard and Renmin Law Schools (hosted in Beijing over 11-12 July: click here for an audio file of my 13-minute presentation by video link).
Do Many of Australia’s (and Some of Japan's) Treaties Not Give Full Consent to Investor-State Arbitration?
Indonesia recently announced that it would review its 67 bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Shortly beforehand, it had unsuccessfully challenged the jurisdiction of an ICSID arbitral tribunal in a claim for expropriation and other violations brought by the Australian subsidiary of a UK coal mining company (Planet Mining v Indonesia).
The tribunal’s decision found that consent to jurisdiction existed under the coal mining licences given by Indonesian authorities, but not under the wording of the 1992 Australia-Indonesia BIT. It found that the countries had only given a “promise to consent” rather than full advance consent to ICSID jurisdiction, meaning that Indonesia could still refuse consent subject to potential review through an inter-state arbitration procedure separately provided under the treaty. Further, as both countries remained party to the framework 1965 ICSID Convention facilitating enforcement of arbitral awards, another BIT provision for ad hoc investor-state arbitration (ISA) was also unavailable to investors.
There has been a flurry of media attention paid to Australia-Japan relations this week. For example, I was asked to appear on “The Wire” radio on 7 April, on the eve of the conclusion of 7 years of negotiating this major bilateral Free Trade Agreement (transcript here). At that stage, the inclusion of Investor-State Dispute Resolution (ISDS) protections for foreign investment in the treaty was still a real possibility, but I argued that there was no need to panic. Japanese investors have never experienced major problems with Australian government authorities illegally interfering with their investments, and indeed have never directly invoked ISDS (especially arbitration) procedures already provided by Japan’s treaties with around 30 countries.
Both governments subsequently announced key features of the Japan-Australia FTA, which ultimately did not include ISDS – unlike the Korea-Australia FTA concluded in December 2013 (and formally signed this week in Seoul). On this blog and then the East Asia Forum, I argued that this presumably meant that the Australian negotiators were happy enough with market access commitments offered by Japan, especially for agricultural products. This may be true but it is hard to be sure, and he argued that omitting even a weak form of ISDS in the FTA with Japan may complicate Australia’s ongoing regional and bilateral FTA negotiations (including with India and Indonesia).
Australia and Japan finally concluded a bilateral Free Trade Agreement on 7 April 2014. Some Australian media outlets had prior inklings that negotiations had achieved significant breakthroughs, especially for agricultural market access into Japan, but a frequent assumption was that Australia must have “given up” something major in return. Concerns were expressed that this included measures favouring Japanese investors into Australia, especially protections from investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS, especially arbitration) provisions [listen to my radio interview here]. These provide an extra avenue for foreign investors to enforce the substantive treaty rights limiting a host state’s capacity to illegally interfere with foreign investments (eg through expropriation). They add to the (more politicised) inter-state arbitration procedure invariably included in investment treaties, as well as any rights under domestic law available through the host state’s court system – particularly problematic in developing countries, such as Indonesia.
ISDS provisions had been added to the Korea-Australia FTA concluded in December 2013 by the Abbott Government, which also declared that it was reverting to a case-by-case approach to ISDS. This contrasted with the position taken by the 2011 Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement, which had reversed Australia’s longstanding treaty practice by declaring that it would not agree to any forms of ISDS in future treaties – even with developing countries. The 2012 Malaysia-Australia FTA omitted ISDS, although that was meaningless in practice as ISDS remains available to enforce similar substantive rights under the 2009 ASEAN-Australia-NZ FTA. Curiously, however, the new Australia-Japan FTA ultimately omitted ISDS provisions as well. Why is this, and what are the broader implications?
I am pleased to provide this Submission on The Trade and Foreign Investment (Protecting the Public Interest) Bill 2014. I specialise in international and comparative commercial and consumer law, and have produced extensive academic publications and media commentary on treaty-based investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). My interest is in the policy and legal issues associated with this system; I have never provided consultancy or other services in ISDS proceedings.
The Bill simply provides, in clause 3, that:
“The Commonwealth must not, on or after the commencement of this Act, enter into an agreement (however described) with one or more foreign countries that includes an investor-state dispute settlement provision.”
The Explanatory Memorandum provides no guidance as to the background to this proposal, or its pros and cons. However it seems to be aimed at reinstating the policy shift announced by the April 2011 “Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement”. That is no longer found on Australian government websites and is inconsistent with the present Government’s policy on ISDS, which allows for such provisions on a case-by-case basis (as evidenced by the recent Korea-Australia FTA).
The Bill, like the previous Trade Policy Statement in this respect, may be well-intentioned, but it is premature and misguided. Treaty-based ISDS is not a perfect system, but it can be improved in other ways – mainly by carefully negotiating and drafting bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and free trade agreements (FTAs). This may also have the long-term benefit of generating a well-balanced new investment treaty at the multilateral level, which is presently missing and unlikely otherwise to eventuate.
Berlin conference on "Independent Directors in Japan and Other Major Asian Jurisdictions" (17-19 July)
"Save the date" for this international conference organized by the:
Max Planck Institute for Comparative and Private International Law
Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB)
German-Japanese Association of Jurists (DJJV)
[For the latest Program, see http://sydney.edu.au/law/anjel/documents/2014/independent_directors_berlin_program.pdf (as of 9 April) or via http://sydney.edu.au/law/anjel/content/anjel_events_up.html (also for registration details etc)]
Date: 17–19 July 2014
Format: 2-day conference open to public, plus half-day closed session for editors and authors of a conference volume
Venue: Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB)
Sponsors: Fritz Thyssen Foundation
Publication: edited by Harald Baum, Souichirou Kozuka, Luke Nottage & Dan Puchniak
Further details will be provided via http://sydney.edu.au/law/anjel/content/anjel_events_up.html
The Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL) will host the Cairns Symposium on Japanese Law on Friday 16 May, with special thanks to ANJeL member and James Cook University Associate Professor Justin Dabner. Registration should be completed by emailing your name and institution to email@example.com; registration costs $60 for non-speakers (to cover lunch and teas) and can be paid on the day of the conference (please inform in advance if a receipt is required).
[Updated 26 April] The Symposium's theme is 'Japanese Law and Business Amidst Bilateral and Regional Free Trade Agreements' - by happy coincidence, in light of the conclusion of negotiations for the Japan Australia Economic Partnership Agreement on 7 April 2014 (see media commentary here). However, presentation proposals dealing with other Japanese Law topics were also welcomed, as in previous ANJeL conferences held since 2002. As indicated by Abstracts below, speakers will cover fields including agricultural land law and policy, corporate law reforms, insolvency law and practice, long-term contracting, cross-border investment dispute resolution, tax treaties, emissions trading schemes and political participation rights.
Australia’s Coalition Government, dominated by the Liberal Party and led by Prime Minister Tony Abbott, recently completed a rocky first 100 days in power. Diplomatic rows with China and Indonesia are only part of the story. The Government stands accused, for example, of sending ‘conflicting messages’ to the business sector. At the Business Council of Australia’s 30th anniversary dinner on 4 December, Abbott reiterated his election-night declaration that Australia was ‘once more open for business’. Yet five days earlier, his Treasurer had taken the rare step of blocking a major foreign direct investment (FDI) – a $3.4 billion bid by US firm ADM for GrainCorp.
"The fundamental importance of foreign direct investment to Australia in the 21st century: Reforming treaty and dispute resolution practice"
The (federal government's) Australian Research Council has provided $260,000 to support this project over 2014-6 (DP140102526), in collaboration with Prof Leon Trakman (lead-CI, former Dean of Law at UNSW), A/Prof Jurgen Kurtz (Melbourne Law School) and Dr Shiro Armstrong (ANU Crawford School of Public Policy, co-editor of the East Asia Forum blog). Below are parts of our original project application to the ARC; an updated and edited version is available at http://ssrn.com/abstract=2362122.
[Abstract] "This project will evaluate the economic and legal risks associated with the Australian Government’s current policy on investor-state dispute settlement through multidisciplinary research, namely econometric modeling, empirical research through stakeholder surveys and interviews, as well as critical analysis of case law, treaties and regulatory approaches. The aim of this project is to identify optimal methods of investor-state dispute prevention, avoidance and resolution that efficiently cater to inbound and outbound investors as well as Australia as a whole. The goal is to promote a positive climate for investment inflows and outflows, while maintaining Australia's ability to take sovereign decisions on matters of public policy."
[Aims] Foreign direct investment (FDI) has become essential to global economic development, with FDI flows exceeding US$1.5 trillion in 2012 (UNCTAD 2012). Australia’s treaty making practice, especially its current policy with respect to investor state dispute settlement (ISDS), may be sub-optimal, in that it is not entirely based on sound economic cost-benefit data and supporting econo-legal research. Australia can potentially increase its share of the global FDI pool by adopting a more efficient approach to formulating policy with respect to ISDS.
This project aims to develop a key policy framework and devise salient institutional structures and processes that take account of two competing pursuits: the cost-benefit advantages of promoting Australia as an FDI destination; and the need to ensure that these advantages are considered in light of competing policy objectives that are not explicated exclusively on economic grounds (as explained in the Background section). This project is valuable and innovative because it identifies significant gaps in the current Australian policy framework and uses interdisciplinary research to address them.
The overall purpose is to ensure that Australia attains its optimal share of the global FDI market in the context of competing policy objectives. As such, the project will evaluate the economic and legal risks associated with the Australian Government’s current policy on ISDS through multidisciplinary research, namely econometric modeling, empirical research through stakeholder surveys and interviews, as well as critical analysis of case law, treaties and regulatory approaches. The general aim is to identify optimal methods of investor-state dispute prevention, avoidance and resolution that efficiently cater to inbound and outbound investors as well as Australia as a whole. The specific purposes therefore are: (1) to investigate policies that underpin Australia’s approach to negotiating international investment treaties, with particular emphasis on its policies on avoiding, managing and resolving investment disputes; (2) to identify and analyse links between these policies and the investment practices of both inbound and outbound investors; and (3) to propose recommendations on alternative approaches to investment policy, so that, through a carefully framed cost-benefit analysis, Australia can retain appropriate sovereignty over public policy issues (such as health and the environment) while promoting a positive economic climate for investment inflows and outflows.
It remains to be seen whether the new Coalition Government will revert to Australia's longstanding treaty practice prior to the 2011 'Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement'. That declared that Australia would not include investor-state arbitration (ISA) protections in future investment treaties - including investment chapters of Free Trade Agreements - even with developing countries.
The new Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, has declared that he is keen to conclude FTAs which Australia has long been negotiating with Japan, Korea and China respectively. The Gillard Government's stance on ISA adding to delays experienced in finalising these treaties - see comments, including some of my own in The Australian on 21 September 2013. It also complicates negotiations for regional agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
The ISA system is far from perfect, but there are many ways for Australia to draft provisions in investment treaties - old and new - to balance public and private interests effectively. Examples that attract varying degrees of support, from experts in international investment law, are provided in my paper co-authored with Chris Campbell and Sophie Nappert, forthcoming in a special issue of the Transnational Dispute Management journal. It and some of my other recent papers relevant to this topic, uploaded on SSRN.com, are listed with their Abstracts below.
I was recently interviewed on this topic by NHK World Radio's principal program director, Yutaka Konishi. His main questions and some of my points in response are outlined below. Some of our interview was broadcast on "Radio News in English" on 9 May 2013, at http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/english/radio/program/), the transcript of the full interview is here (download PDF file), and my own notes are reproduced below.
Later I was also interviewed in Sydney by TV Asahi specifically about investor-state arbitration (and other ISDS) provisions in the expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, which Japan has now officially joined. The 14-minute special feature from their "Hodo Station" evening news on 24 May is also available on YouTube, and a video-clip of my edited comments (from 7m30s to 8m5s) can also be downloaded here (11MB .mov file). In the longer interview in Sydney, I reiterated that there is ample scope for this new FTA to include innovative ISDS provisions that appropriately balance the interests of host states (in regulating for the public interest) and private investors (seeking minimum and internationally-accepted legal standards before committing long-term investments). Em Prof Mitsuo Matsushita (former WTO Appellate Body judge) and especially Mr Shigeaki Koga (a former METI official) also emphasised this point in their comments for the Hodo Station special feature. As the TV Asahi website overview pointed out, this topic is now attracting considerable interest in Japan:
Political Change Versus Law Reform Continuity: Japanese Law After Three Years of Enthusiasm and Disillusionment
The 10th Asian Law Institute (ASLI) conference will take place in Bangalore at the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) over 23-24 May 2013. The following is an accepted panel proposal drafted primarily by Dr Dan Puchniak, ANJeL-in-ASEAN Convenor (NUS):
In autumn 2009, the progressive coalition led by the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) achieved a historic victory in the general election and came to power, expelling the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been in power continuously since its establishment in 1955 (except for a very brief break in the early 1990s). The new DPJ-led coalition intended to make the policy-making process more transparent and more strongly controlled by politicians, as well as to make the policy orientation of the Japanese government more progressive. After three years, the polls showed significant discontent among the public with the DPJ’s achievements, and power reverted to the LDP in the December 2012 general election.
It is timely for legal academics to examine whether, and in which sense, the DPJ-government affected law reform over the last three years. In this context, Nottage and Kozuka will explain how—perhaps, quite unexpectedly—the historic political turnover in Japan (“macro-politics”) has had a limited influence on important reforms that are taking place in the field of Japanese contract law. In contrast, however, the process of contract law reform has been substantially influenced by the politicking of lawyers and professional bureaucrats (“micro-politics”) who have a personal stake in the reform process. Ultimately, based on this experience, Nottage and Kozuka suggest that micro-politics is more important than macro-politics in Japan’s legal reform process.
Matsunaka will continue the discussion of politics and legal reform by analyzing the new round of corporate law reform, which was initially driven by the strong policy agendas of several DPJ members. As the corporate law reform deliberations progressed, however, the debates increasingly became dominated by elite academics and MOJ officials and, ultimately, the reforms now appear to reflect little, if any, of the DPJ’s core values. Matsunaka’s analysis of this “watering-down” of the DPJ’s policy based reforms provides an interesting perspective on Japan’s legal reform process and contributes to the broad literature on the politics of corporate governance law reform.
Kozuka will then extend on Matsunaka’s analysis by examining Japan’s recent reform of its broadcasting regulation, which was one of the most important agendas for the DPJ when it first came to power. Again, Kozuka’s findings suggest that the more extreme policy based positions of the DPJ gradually faded in the process of law reform, with the final result being more technical and modest deregulatory reforms in the new Broadcasting Law of 2010.
Puchniak will conclude the discussion by examining the recent introduction of the business judgment rule into Japanese corporate law. At least based on conventional wisdom, the fact that the business judgment rule—which is of critical importance in corporate law—was introduced into Japanese law purely through judicial precedent (without any mention of it in Japan’s codified/statutory corporate law) is astounding. Puchniak’s analysis of this unanticipated source of law reform in the DPJ era will shine a light on a substantial blind-spot in both the current understanding of Japanese legal reform and the more general comparative corporate law literature.
In sum, these four presentations offer a good opportunity to discuss the relationship between the political process and law reform, policy choice through the judiciary and the determinants of the role of law in a post-industrial society in Asia.
Negotiating and Applying Investor-State Arbitration Provisions in Free Trade Agreements and Investment Treaties: Australia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific
My recent Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/84, forthcoming in a special issue 119 (9&10) Hogaku Shimpo (Chuo University) for Professor Satoru Osanai, is an edited and updated collection of postings over 2012 on this 'Japanese Law and the Asia-Pacific' blog (and/or the East Asia Forum blog) dealing with investor-state arbitration (ISA) and other forms of investor-state dispute settlement.
The topic has become particularly controversial for Australia, given its ongoing Free Trade Agreement negotiations with Japan. Japan is also considering joining negotiations underway among Australia and 10 other states (including the US) for an expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, and both are also interested in the more recent 'Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership' (RCEP) initiative (ASEAN+6). Both Japan and Australia have almost always included ISA protections in their investment treaties, but Australia omitted them in investment treaties with the USA and New Zealand, and recently declared that it will no longer accept ISA in future treaties – even with countries with less developed legal systems and economies.
On 22 October Sky News ‘Late Agenda’ interviewed me and Rick Wallace (Tokyo-based correspondent for ‘The Australian’) following an interview with Michael Woodford, former CEO of Olympus in Japan (click here and then here for 200-MB mp4 video-clips). Corporate governance in Japan is important for Australia, given the countries’ strong trade and investment relationship and recent pressure to finalise a bilateral Free Trade Agreement, as well as from broader regional and theoretical perspectives.
[A version of the second half of this Comment, on the potential impact of Australia's new policy against treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration provisions on the pending FTA negotiations with Japan, appears also on the East Asia Forum - cited by Rowan Callick 'Arbitration Hitch Holds Up FTAs' The Australian (2 November 2012, p10).]
The remarkably well-attended and interactive 50th Anniversary Australia Japan Joint Business Conference took place in Sydney over 8-9 October. It was hosted by the Australian Committee, established in 1962 and comprising Australia-based firms involved with Japan. But the conference program was developed with its counterpart in Japan, which hosts there a Joint Conference in alternate years. This cooperative arrangement has become unusually close, and provides an inspiration for other bilateral business community centred relationships. (By contrast, for example, the Australia China Business Council hosts its own main events quite independently of those organised by its Chinese counterpart, comprising firms interested in doing business in Australia.) The Australia-Japan Committees’ arrangement is also very longstanding: the first joint conference took place in 1963 at the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce, with the second in 1964 at the Australian National University.
As ANU Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale reminisced in his keynote address at this year’s conference in Sydney, this cooperative arrangement – and indeed the entire bilateral relationship between Australia and Japan – proved to be an unexpected success. After all, both countries were bitter foes during World War II. For several ensuing decades Australia maintained concerns about engaging with Asia, as well as trade liberalisation and inbound foreign investment more broadly, with Japan also habouring mercantilist tendencies.
Abandoning all Investor-State Dispute Settlement Mechanisms Also Not Supported by the Facts (updated 17 August)
I am glad the High Court of Australia rejected today the argument by major tobacco companies that Australia’s plain packaging legislation is an unconstitutional “acquisition” of their rights. I dislike those companies’ products, their marketing and their litigation strategies, and I support the plain packaging legislation. I’ve also made numerous submissions to the Australian government since 2005 seeking to improve safety regulation for general consumer goods – partially achieved in the 2010 “Australian Consumer Law”.
But I hope that the ongoing arbitration claim of “expropriation”, initiated by Philip Morris Asia under the 1993 Hong Kong – Australia bilateral investment treaty, does not feed into blanket rejection of any forms of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) in investment treaties. Although that system has flaws, it also has benefits, and there is ample scope to draft treaties to provide clear and appropriate mechanisms to balancing private and public interests. With others familiar with international investment law, I provide further examples of the most promising substantive and procedural law reforms in an Open Letter dated 28 July 2012, in response to a recent OECD Public Consultation on ISDS.
My comment will therefore address points made recently on The Conversation blog by Dr Kyla Tienhaara, who remains completely opposed to any form of ISDS. In fact, she urges the Gillard Government to try to excise ISDS from all Australia's existing FTAs and investment treaties (dating back to 1988), in addition to eschewing them for future treaties – as the Government seems to be attempting, pursuant to its policy shift on ISDS announced in the 2011 Trade Policy Statement (TPS). An alternative is for the Government to approach Hong Kong authorities to seek agreement on amending the 1993 treaty to suspend PMA’s pending claim. More generally, Australia should consider including ISDS provisions in future treaties but expressly reserve its right to agree with the treaty partner to suspend particular types of claims, for example regarding public health issues. This compromise approach is already essentially found in investment treaty practice where the claim involves allegations of “expropriatory taxation”.
Some are concerned about treaty-based Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS), especially binding Investor-State Arbitration procedures in investment treaties and Free Trade Agreements. One response includes public calls for states to eschew such procedures completely in future treaties, for example in the expanded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement presently under negotiation. This approach would essentially leave foreign investors to approach local courts if host states illegally interfere with their investments, or to encourage their home states to activate an inter-state dispute resolution process, or to try to negotiate individualised arbitration agreements with host states.
An alternative approach is to identify and address more specific concerns with treaty-based ISDS. An example is the scoping paper and Public Consultation on ISDS generated by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, over 16 May – 23 July.
As a constructive contribution to this debate, we created an online form asking for views on whether ISDS should be left as is, abandoned completely, or adapted in various listed ways. As explained below, no respondents favoured eschewing ISDS completely. Yet that position represents the policy shift announced by Australia in the "Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement" (April 2011), resulting in ISDS being omitted from the Australia-Malaysia FTA (May 2012) but difficulties in negotiating other bilateral treaties (with Korea, and Japan) and the TPPA. Implications and other topics related to the TPPA negotiations will be discussed at a Roundtable in Canberra on 8 August, hosted by the Crawford School of Public Policy (ANU College of Asia and the Pacific).
As NZ lawyer Daniel Kalderimis points out recently, concerns about treaty-based investor-state arbitration (ISA) have been:
stirred up by the release of an “Open Letter from Lawyers to the Negotiators of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Urging the Rejection of Investor-State Dispute Settlement” on 8 May 2012. The letter is backed by well-meaning, and several well-known, signatories; most of whom are not especially well-informed about investor-state arbitration. The fact of the letter is welcome, as the issues are important. But the letter itself contains several overstatements and does not make a balanced contribution to the debate.
Another oddity about the "Open Letter" is that it refers generically to "Investor-State Dispute Settlement" (ISDS) and ends by calling on "all governments engaged in the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership FTA] negotiations to follow Australia’s example by rejecting the Investor-State dispute mechanism and reasserting the integrity of our domestic legal processes". ISDS incorporates both ISA (where the parties agree to be bound by the arbitrators' decision) and investor-state mediation ("ISM") or conciliation procedures (where the parties agree to negotiate a settlement but are not obliged to accept any proposals made by the third-party neutral mediator). At least the rest of the "Open Letter" indicates that the primary objection is to binding ISA.
By contrast, the "Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement" (April 2011) simply eschews ISDS in Australia's future treaties, including the TPP. Perhaps the Statement meant only ISA, which allows greater inroads into host state sovereignty, given that overall it draws on the Productivity Commission's recommendations from a 2010 Trade Policy Review report. But, by seemingly eschewing all forms of ISA, the Statement seems to go beyond the Commission's recommendation on ISA itself.
Hopefully the Australian government, other states involved in FTA negotiations (such as the TPP) and those who wish to improve the ISA system (such as myself) or abandon it altogether (as do some signatories to the Open Letter) will not simply transpose their objections over to ISM too. There is significant scope for mediating investor-state disputes, and indeed the Draft Rules on ISM published recently by the International Bar Association (IBA) are a valuable guide to conducting mediation more effectively. Below I set out some preliminary analysis of those Draft Rules, prepared for the Law Council of Australia but representing my own personal views - particularly regarding the scope for arbitrators to adopt them as a means of settling ISA claims earlier and more effectively (ie 'Arb-Med'). A fully-footnoted version of my views is available on request, and I encourage feedback.
Written by Fady Aoun & Luke Nottage, Sydney Law School
[This is an earlier manuscript version, without footnote references, of our review published in the (March 2012) special issue 34(1) of the Sydney Law Review, on Asian investment and finance law. The final and complete version, along with eight articles and an introduction by the guest editors (Vivienne Bath and Luke Nottage), can also be downloaded here.]
A decade or so ago, in the aftermath of the Asian Financial Crisis (1997), international institutions like the World Bank saw corporate governance as deeply problematic in many parts of Asia — contributing to so-called ‘crony capitalism’ and economic instability. The proposed solution was often reform based on Anglo-American models, aimed at promoting more transparent securities markets by, for example, protecting minority shareholders. Some Asian jurisdictions made changes in that direction, at least according to the ‘law in books’, but they varied in scope and impact. Within a decade, moreover, large-scale corporate collapses in the West — particularly in the United States — and the Global Financial Crisis (2008) had called into question some fundamental assumptions and prescriptions of the Anglo-American approach to corporate governance. Intellectually, therefore, it is timely to revisit the situation in Asia from a broader comparative and historical perspective. Analysis of corporate governance in Asia also has obvious and immediate practical merit, given the region’s strong economic growth relative to Europe and the US, and especially in light of burgeoning cross-border investment flows arguably needed to sustain ‘the next convergence’ of developing and developed economies.
This book therefore represents an admirable and successful step towards a better understanding of what many commentators have proposed as an important potential contributor to minority shareholder protection and effective corporate governance: namely, the derivative suit brought by a shareholder on behalf of the company.
Written by: Simon Butt, Luke Nottage and Brett Williams
with special thanks (but no responsibility attributed) to Vivienne Bath and Chester Brown (University of Sydney Law School)
[Updated 18 April, with a shorter version at http://www.eastasiaforum.org/]
Indonesia’s new Mining Law regulation requiring divestment of majority foreign investments is unlikely to generate many formal investor-state arbitration (ISA) claims against Indonesia, based on existing bilateral or regional free trade agreements (FTAs) or investment treaties. But that assessment is based primarily on immediate pragmatic considerations. This situation leaves considerable scope for the international investment law framework to begin unraveling, risking complex adverse effects on cross-border investment particularly in the rapidly evolving Asia-Pacific region.
Divestment of foreign mining interests in Indonesia meets the ‘Gillard Government Trade Policy Statement’
By: Simon Butt and Luke Nottage (University of Sydney Law School)
[with a shorter version at http://www.eastasiaforum.org/]
Professor Chris Findlay recently wrote on the East Asia Forum about ‘Australia’s FDI challenges in the Asian Century’, highlighting problems reported recently by ANZ Bank and Qantas in the region. His proposals including ‘innovation in negotiating modalities’, including a possible new plurilateral agreement in the WTO that would cover all investments (not just in some services sectors). That’s a nice idea, but it’s proving hard enough to complete the current round of Doha Round negotiations. In light also of recent problems in Indonesia, the Australian government should meanwhile reconsider its abrupt policy shift last April regarding an important protection found in most of its bilateral and regional Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) and bilateral investment agreements (BITs): investor-state arbitration (ISA).
Allens Arthur Robinson and Sydney Law School are pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch of Foreign Investment and Dispute Resolution Law and Practice in Asia. Edited by Professors Vivienne Bath and Luke Nottage of Sydney Law School, the book critically assesses the laws and policies affecting investment flows in major Asian economies. It brings together valuable insights from some of the region's leading practitioners and academics about investment treaties and foreign direct investment regimes in Asia. Foreign Investment and Dispute Resolution Law and Practice in Asia will be launched by Professor Michael Pryles, Chairman of the Singapore International Arbitration Centre. [A recording of his 13-minute speech is available via Sydney Law School's Youtube channel here.]
[Updated 3 August 2011]
Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes famously remarked in Northern Securities Co v United States 193 US 197 (1904) that:
“Great cases like hard cases make bad law. For great cases are called great, not by reason of their importance... but because of some accident of immediate overwhelming interest which appeals to the feelings and distorts the judgment”.
We might take this reasoning a step further: big cases make or entrench bad policy. A contemporary example is the request for arbitration (in Singapore) initiated on 27 June by tobacco giant Philip Morris Asia (PM) against Australia, pursuant to the 1993 “Agreement between the Government of Australia and the Government of Hong Kong for the Promotion and Protection of Investments”. PM seems to be alleging that proposed legislation mandating plain packaging of cigarettes amounts to “expropriation” of its trademarks (Art 6) and possibly a violation of “fair and equitable treatment” obligations (Art 2(2)).
[This is based on research for the project, 'Fostering a Common Culture in Cross-Border Dispute Resolution: Australia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific', supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.]
The Australian Government’s Productivity Commission (PC) released on 13 December its Research Report on Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements (BRTAs). Recommendation 5 of the Draft Report in July had suggested that BRTAs (including International Investment Agreements or IAAs) should include Investor-State Dispute Resolution (ISDS) only if Australia’s counterpart country has a relatively underdeveloped legal system, and more generally only if foreign investors did not obtain more expansive protections than domestic investors. Following criticism of some factual errors and various arguments included in the Draft Report, the PC convened a policy workshop for officials, academics (including myself) and other stakeholders. Some views expressed there are partly reflected in the longer and somewhat better-argued section on ISDS now found in the final Report (at Part 14.2, pp265-77). Unfortunately, however, there remain serious problems with the analysis, which includes the following Findings by the PC:
'1. There does not appear to be an underlying economic problem that necessitates the inclusion of ISDS provisions within agreements. Available evidence does not suggest that ISDS provisions have a significant impact on investment flows.
2. Experience in other countries demonstrates that there are considerable policy and financial risks arising from ISDS provisions.'
Below I focus on the implications of this approach. They are particularly acute for Australia’s present negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Japan, for accession to the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP, which Japan is also interested in joining), and for developments more generally within APEC and at the multilateral level
Good for the Goose, Not Good for the Gander? Australian versus Japanese Approaches Towards Investor-State Arbitration
[This is based on research for the project, “Fostering a Common Culture in Cross-Border Dispute Resolution: Australia, Japan and the Asia-Pacific”, supported by the Commonwealth through the Australia-Japan Foundation which is part of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. An edited and updated version is also on the East Asia Forum.]
The Productivity Commission (PC) released on 16 July a Draft Report for its Review of Bilateral and Regional Trade Agreements, commissioned by the Assistant Treasurer to reconsider the Australian Government’s policy in negotiating Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). It acknowledges the inefficiencies of preferential agreements compared to multilateral approaches. However, given the persistent impasse in WTO negotiations, the Report pragmatically suggests various means to maximise benefits in the short-term, which may also lead to longer-term multilateral solutions. Unfortunately, that ideal is unlikely to be achieved – risking perverse implications throughout the Asia-Pacific, where Australia has concentrated its FTA activity – if the PC’s Final Report ends up including all these suggestions in its Draft Recommendation 5:
1. “Where the legal systems of partner countries are relatively underdeveloped, it may be appropriate to refer cases to third party dispute settlement mechanisms.
2. However, such process should not afford foreign investors in Australia or partner countries with legal protections not available to residents.
3. Investor-state dispute settlement procedures should be subject to regular review to take into account changing international best practice and the evolving legal systems in partner countries.”
As explained in my Submission to the PC (reproduced here), I have no great difficulty with the last point, although I suggest that one way to achieve that goal would be for Australia to develop and update a Model Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT). I have much more difficulty with the PC’s second recommendation, but I focus now on problems with the first as it is particularly relevant to Australia’s policy position in regard to the Asia-Pacific, and especially now Japan.
Do Toyota's woes indicate, as some have argued, the last nail in the coffin of the mass production based export model that had served the Japanese economy so well at least through to the 1980s? In other words, does Japan need to wind down even high-tech goods manufacturing and further expand its services sector? Are consumer product safety expectations both within Japan and abroad just too demanding nowadays? Or is Toyota similar to Mitsubishi Motors, an aberrant company which for years conducted clandestine recalls - taking consumers and regulators for a ride - until an employee blew the whistle in 2000 ... almost destroying the Mitsubishi brand name? And does the Toyota saga suggest that Japan's gradual transformation in corporate governance is, well, TOO gradual?
For one view on that last point, and to encourage public comments on any of these questions or others that have been raised by Toyota's saga, I am pleased to reproduce (with permission) the following posting by an American ANJeL member on JURIST, the University of Pittsburgh's blog:
JURIST Guest Columnist Professor Bruce Aronson of Creighton University School of Law says that Japanese automobile manufacturer Toyota's current safety crisis - now the subject of Congressional hearings - should prompt the company to address its seriously flawed system of governance more than just its public image....
Happy New Year of the Tiger!
Registrations are now open for the 2nd ANJeL Australia Japan Business Law Update seminar: Saturday 13 February 2010 2-5.30pm at the Kasumigaseki building of Ernst & Young in Tokyo (http://shinnihon.vo.llnwd.net/o25/image/aboutus/eytax_access_mapE.gif).
Learn about post-GFC financial markets reg and (yes) the amended Australia-Japan double tax treaty. And even get 3 MCLD/PLD credits. Just A$200 – with no GST chargeable! At least some of us will follow up with an informal (PAYG) dinner.
For more details and registration please visit: http://www.usyd.edu.au/news/law/457.html?eventcategoryid=39&eventid=5139
Peter Drysdale’s weekly editorial for the East Asia Forum, along with related postings to that blog and enormous media attention in Australia and elsewhere, focuses ‘on the continuing detention of Rio Tinto executive, Stern Hu, in Shanghai on allegations of espionage’. Drysdale signposts some future analysis of ‘the legal framework under which Hu’s detention has taken place’. He also emphasises that we need ‘a cooperative framework—bilaterally, regionally and globally‘ for ‘China’s authorities to avoid damage to the reliability of markets and for Australia to avoid the perception of investment protectionism’. The most pressing legal (and diplomatic) issues concern China’s criminal justice system, especially when ‘national security’ is allegedly involved. But we need already to consider some broader ramifications, including how we think about FDI legislation and (increasingly intertwined) investment treaty protections.
In short, most agree that the Chinese government got annoyed when Australia itself invoked national security interests to restrict Minmetals bid for OZ Minerals back in March 2009. Then it got really annoyed when Chinalco’s bid for Rio Tinto fell through, even though the Australian government wasn’t directly involved. And so, one story goes, Stern Hu has been arrested to send a message – in the hope that Australia (and other potential host states) will be think twice before invoking national security exceptions to restrict future FDI from China. The China-watchers are better placed to decide whether this is really the motivation behind his arrest. My point here is rather that we should not be surprised that host states may be increasingly tempted to invoke exceptions to limit FDI at the outset, which in turn generates risks of (over-)reactions by home states, as we may be witnessing in Hu’s case. And the initial temptation may arise due to proliferating investor-state arbitration provisions in investment treaties, because those later restrict their room to invoke national security or other limits once the FDI has been approved.
All my blogs over July-October 2008, posted originally with full hyperlinks at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/], have been edited and updated as:
Nottage, Luke R., 'Economics, Politics, Public Policy and Law in Japan, Australasia and the Pacific: Corporate Governance, Financial Crisis, and Consumer Product Safety in 2008' (November 3, 2008) Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 08/134, Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1295064 (and forthcoming, early 2009, in Ritsumeikan Law Review)
Some of the individual topics focused more directly on Japanese Law, asterisked below, are also available on this USydney blog:
* 1. Taking the Australia-Japan FTA negotiations to new levels
* 2. Whaling: What can law add to science, economics, ethics and politics?
3. Australia also should ‘Rail at Australian’s Tabloid Trash’ about Japan
* 4. Consumer over-indebtedness in Japan, Australia and the US
* 5. Dodgy foods and Chinese dumplings in Japan
* 6. FDI and corporate governance in Japan
* 7. Investor-state arbitration for Indonesia, Australia and Japan
8. Rivals: China, India and Japan – economic, not Olympic?
* 9. The politics of Japan’s new Takeovers Guidelines
* 10. Tables turned in Japanese and US financial markets
* 11. Lessons from Japan for the US financial crisis
* 12. The financial crisis - and loansharks in Japan and NZ
* 13. Consequences of melamine-laced milk for China, NZ, Japan and beyond
14. Political dynasties in Japan, the US, Australia … but not NZ?
* 15. A New Consumer Agency for Japan?
[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]
As outlined in FDI and Corporate Governance in Japan, in the context of growing inbound FDI and M&A activity, Japan is developing a hybrid approach to setting parameters for hostile takeovers. It is worthwhile taking a closer look at a third Report recently from a Study Group playing a major role, along with the courts, in elaborating Guidelines on permissible defensive measures. The Group’s membership seems to be changing, and differences are emerging compared to both the Anglo-Australian and American approaches to substantive rules on takeovers as well as the process for defining them.
[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]
Interesting responses by Andrew MacIntyre and others follow Peter McCawley’s recent posting on the East Asia Forumblog, throwing light on Indonesia’s electricity crisis. Further to my subsequent posting on burgeoning FDI into Japan, yet the recent blocking of an English fund’s bid to expand shareholdings in the J-Power wholesaler, I wonder what Indonesia’s overall experience has been in attracting foreign investment into power projects. From Wells and Ahmad, Making Foreign Investment Safe (OUP, 2007), I do know of three major investments that resulted in arbitrations after Indonesia suspended many projects following the Asian Financial Crisis a decade ago. These already involved some involvement from Australia and especially Japan. Hence the question: why and how should we provide for investment arbitration in the Australia-Japan FTA or in ASEAN+ agreements?
[Originally posted, with full hyperlinks, at http://eastasiaforum.org/author/lukenottage/]
With Non-Performing Loans finally under control and economic recovery underway since 2002, Japan has also experienced a revival in FDI outflows. Many commentators focus on the large stocks built up in China, but there has also been steady interest in investing in Australia. Rather than tourism and property developments, Japanese firms have been quietly investing in infrastructure projects, and Nomura is reported recently as a possible buyer of the Australian investment banking arm of ABN AMRO.
A more remarkable development is the expansion of inbound FDI, particularly under the former Koizumi government. Fueled by a broader boom in M&A world-wide, Japan’s inflow rebounded to US$22 billion in 2007, and foreign investment stocks doubled over the last five years. But flows and stocks are still low by OECD standards relative to GDP, especially compared to the US, the UK and now Australia.
The Fukuda government has also sent more mixed messages recently. The Transport Ministry tried to include a blanket one-third cap on foreign shareholdings in Japanese airports. But others including the Financial Services Agency objected that this would choke off other inbound FDI, so this provision was dropped in March. The government is now considering the introduction of measures that more directly regulate the understandable security concerns arising from operating airports. Macquarie Airports Management Ltd, which already owns 19.9 percent of Haneda Airport, will be following this ongoing debate especially carefully.
About the Blog
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- The “Anti-ISDS Bill” before the Australian Parliament
- Independent Directors in Australia, Japan and the Asian Region
- Do Many of Australia’s (and Some of Japan's) Treaties Not Give Full Consent to Investor-State Arbitration?
- The new Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (FTA)
- Why no investor-state arbitration in the Australia-Japan FTA?
- Bill proposing to preclude Australia from ISDS in future investment treaties
- Berlin conference on "Independent Directors in Japan and Other Major Asian Jurisdictions" (17-19 July)
- 12th ANJeL Japanese Law conference: Cairns, 16 May
- Investor-State Dispute Settlement Back for Australia’s Free Trade Agreements
- "The fundamental importance of foreign direct investment to Australia in the 21st century: Reforming treaty and dispute resolution practice"