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GLOBAL OUTLOOK NEWS


SCORECARD


ForeigninvestorscannowclaimUAE citizenshipafterreforms,whiletheUKis


boostingtiesoutsideEuropewithitssecond Africasummit.Arecentlysigned


investmentdealbetweentheEUandChina hasbothbackersandopponents,andthe


USminimumwagediscussionisheatingup. Theoutlookisweakfor investmentinto 2021,accordingtoUnctad


LOOKING UP


UAE Emiratiswoo investors with potential of citizenship (page 82)


Opportunistschasethe motherofallambulances


THE GLOBAL LAWYER


CAN CLASS ACTION LAWYERS FIND AWAY TO MONETISE THE “WUHAN FLU”? MICHAELDGOLDHABERREPORTS


Enterprising US lawyers, from right-wing gadflies to the attorneys general of Mississippi and Missouri, have filed 15


UK


Post-Brexit strategy focuses on continent (page 64)


pandemic lawsuits against the People’s Republic of China and the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Most begin by reasonably bemoaning China’s early denial that the virus may be transmitted asymptomati- cally, and from human to human. Fromthere the lawsuits go off the rails. Some fancifully accuse Beijing of operating a bioweapons facility near a wet market. All conclude that Beijing, having


CHINA Huge potential of new trade deal has someworried (page 58)


“caused” the pandemic, is liable for every last consequence. One action demands more than $20tn. Another states that damages will “exceed tril- lions of dollars... and only increase”. Read literally, this would imply quadrillions rising to quintillions. Thinking big is often a virtue,


but the US has an unfortunate tendency to judicialise its problems without solving them. Ambitious US lawyers would be better advised to channel their creativity into strengthening global health govern- ance than pursuing an elusive jack- pot court judgment. The usual argument for sover-


US


Issue around the minimumwage


cometo the fore (page 55)


GLOBAL The outlook remains ‘weak’ through 2021 (page 6)


eign immunity is that allowing another nation to be sued will come back to bite the plaintiffs’ home nation. That logic applies with special force in pandemic disputes. For viruses can start anywhere – and pandemics can be mismanaged anywhere. In mocking the “Wuhan flu”, outgoing secretary of state Mike Pompeo forgot that the “Spanish flu” likely began in his home state of Kansas. In pushing legislation to poke a


TRENDING DOWN


8


China-sized hole in sovereign immu- nity, populist senators TomCotton and Josh Hawley missed the irony in America demonising nations that “deliberately conceal or distort the existence or nature of Covid”. However foolish the suits may


be, they’re also doomed to failure. Chimène Keitner, who served as


Counselor on International Lawin the Obama State Department, finds it self-evident that they fail to fit any of the pleaded exceptions to sover- eign immunity: for commercial activity, terrorism, or a tort commit- ted on US territory. In any event, notes David Fidler


of the Council of Foreign Relations, any case for recovery would be gravely complicated by the Trump administration’s botched policy response. This is a situation where allocating blame is not only impru- dent but impossible, both legally and morally. The true post-pandemic chal-


lenge will be for the world to draw shared lessons for public health regulation. Amid the swirling winds of a potential new Cold War, that will be hard enough. The US re-join- ing the World Health Organization (WHO), as it did in January, was a necessary first step. Next the world deserves an honest accounting of every nation and locality’s failures – in China, the US, and elsewhere – whether of imagination, compe- tence or political courage. Finally, theWHOconstitution


must be revisited, and the International Health Regulations thoroughly amended. (See ‘The Global Lawyer: WHO’s afraid of a new pandemic?’, fDi, August/ September 2020). Among the most promising ideas: to giveWHO inspection powers and makeWHO funding mandatory, to set a more flexible public health emergency standard, to require global sharing of virus samples, and to ensure rapid vaccine access in poor nations. And to ensure compliance, theWHOand IMF should broadly make pandemic best practices a condition for foreign assistance. The wisest public serv- ants will understand that the morn- ing after a pandemic is not the time to chase ambulances – but to silence their sirens’ wail.■


Michael D Goldhaber serves as US correspondent for the International Bar Association. He has been tracking the world’s largest disputes since the turn of the millennium. Email: michael.goldhaber@gmail.com


www.fDiIntelligence.com February/March 2021


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