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GLOBAL OUTLOOK NEWS


SCORECARD


Severaleconomiesareswimmingagainst theCovidtide,withChinaintheleadand Norwayregisteringrecordinbound


investment.InAsia,theRCEPtradedealis aimingtofosterintra-regionalco-operation, butdatashowsthatinvestmentintotheBelt andRoadhasstalled.Overall,foreign


investorsarestillcautious,saysthefDiIndex.


LOOKING UP


GLOBAL Five economies dodging the Covid bullet (page 6)


Will investorarbitration survivethenewdecade?


THE GLOBAL LAWYER


EVERYONE LOVES TO HATE IT, BUT THE INVESTOR-STATE SYSTEM HAS STAYING POWER


In the Trump era, the world of investment disputes seemed headed for a three-way split. Under pressure from the right,


the US pushed post-Nafta Canada cases into national courts (see The Global Lawyer column, fDi March 2020). Under pressure from the left, the EU forced new treaty partners to accept a standing investment court in lieu of arbitration. Only Asia and its Pacific neighbours (minus the US) clearly embraced state-investor arbi- tration, by salvaging the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Now, on the cusp of a new decade


NORWAY


Oslo bucks the trend with record


greenfield projects (page 74)


RCEP The new bloc brings together some of theworld’s most FDI restrictive countries (page 66)


and a US restoration, the lines look more blurred. On closer examina- tion, they were never all that distinct. So, where does the new leader of


the free world, Joe Biden, stand? “I oppose the ability of private


corporations to attack labour, health, and environmental policies through the [investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS)] process,” Mr Biden told the United SteelWorkers during the campaign, “and I oppose the inclu- sion of such provisions in future trade agreements”. Some pundits took this as a flat-


CHINA


Covid slows China’s BRI (page 86)


out repudiation of ISDS. But Mr Biden’s statement leaves plenty of wiggle room to support new treaties that duly respect the state’s right to regulate. In practice, he will surely take the pandemic as an excuse to prioritise health and the economy over trade talks. No first-termpresident is apt to


GLOBAL fDi Index remains subdued (page 6)


openly spend political capital on free trade, especially given that the US and its industrial Midwest still rest on a knife’s edge. Behind closed doors, Mr Bidenmay be expected to manoeuvre the US back in the direc- tion of a rules-based global order and TPP-style multilateralism. Patrick Pearsall of Allen&Overy,


TRENDING DOWN


8


who helped to negotiate the TPP as the investment arbitration chief for the Obama State Department, predicts that global disputes will remain fractured in form, while converging in substance. Procedurally, investment diplo-


mats have never been further from consensus. Last year’s EU–Japan pact had toomit dispute resolution because Japan vetoed an investment court and the EU vetoed arbitration. An impasse between ISDS skeptics (like Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand), and arbitral supporters (like China, Japan and South Korea) had long stalled the China-led RegionalComprehensive Economic Partnership. In mid-November, China finally prevailed on 14 of its neigh- bours to form the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, only by agreeing to kick the can of dispute resolution two years downthe road. And Canada has been forced to accept one model with the EU, a second with the US, and a third with Asia. But in substance, the outlines of a


reformist consensus is perceptible— with treaty standards that affirm the right to regulate, stronger ethical guardrails, and court-like levels of transparency. The TPP represents the renewed state of the art. It affirms that states can’t be sued for aiming to fairly advance a legitimate public goal, or for merely upsetting an inves- tor’s expectations. It features public hearings and pleadings, a tighter code to tame arbitral conflicts of interest, and an interpretive commis- sion that gives states the power to rein in runaway arbitrators. In spirit the TPP isn’t all that far


from the EU Investment Court, which contemplates a standing court administered by arbitral institutions and enforced under arbitral treaties. Meanwhile, in Uncitral talks, the US has been surprisingly open to the EU idea of an appeal mechanism. With populists already plotting


their comeback, the dominant force in international economic diplo- macy this decade is likely to be iner- tia. The burden is nowon the cosmopolites to maintain power and create the conditions needed for forward progress.■


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 December 2020/January 2021


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