There is growing agreement among many civil society organizations, legal experts, and policy makers that the current international investment law regime is not working well for people or the planet. U.S. President Barack Obama made several statements during his election campaign indicating a commitment to revise the investment rules in U.S. trade policies.
In South America, political leaders have already begun challenging excessive international investor protections and advancing proposals for more just and sustainable trade and investment regimes. In 2007, the Bolivian government became the first in the world to withdraw from the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), the investment arbitration court associated with the World Bank. Venezuela and Nicaragua joined Bolivia in a joint declaration criticizing ICSID. The Ecuadorian government notified ICSID that it would not accept its jurisdiction in cases stemming from disputes over nonrenewable resources and announced plans to renegotiate at least nine of its bilateral investment treaties. New constitutions of both Bolivia and Ecuador restrict the countries’ participation in international investment tribunals. The Argentine government has also raised concerns over flaws in the system, after being hit by more than 40 investor claims in recent years, many of them in retaliation for actions taken to alleviate the pain of financial crisis on average citizens.
Elsewhere in the world, the Australian government refused to accept investor-state dispute settlement in the U.S.-Australia Free Trade Agreement and South Africa and Pakistan have also refused to sign bilateral investment treaties based on the U.S. model.
While there seems to be growing agreement on the need for change, the nature of needed reforms is hotly contested. This section provides links to some of the concrete proposals made by governments, academics, as well as civil society groups. Specific recommendations can also be found in many of the materials in the “reports and analysis” section of this site.
Trade as if People and Earth Matter
A Working Document on Alternatives by the Interfaith Working Group on Trade and Investment, May 2008. Read the full report.
IISD Model International Agreement on Investment
The IISD Model International Agreement on Investment for Sustainable Development (PDF – 563 kb) marks the first fundamental effort to review the nature and purpose of international investment agreements since the current model was developed almost 50 years ago. Read the full report.
Memo from U.S. civil society groups on alternatives to the model bilateral investment treaty:
U.S. Department of State
Office of Investment Affairs (EB/IFD/OIA)
Office of the U.S. Trade Representative
Office of Services, Investment, and IPR
January 16, 2004
“…In sum, we believe the result is a draft model BIT that poses many significant threats to public interest protections for sustainable development, the environment, health and safety, and workers’ rights. We outline below some of our most serious concerns with the proposed model BIT. We address both procedural and substantive issues, including
the failure of the draft model BIT to ensure that the rights provided by the investment rules are limited to those accorded under U.S. law to U.S. citizens. We urge your agencies to refrain from finalizing the model BIT while these concerns have not been fully addressed.” Read the full report.
Improving the System of Investor State Dispute Settlement: An Overview
WORKING PAPERS ON INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT, Investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms embodied in most investment treaties provide rights to foreign investors to seek redress for damages arising out of alleged breaches by host governments of investment-related obligations. The system of investment dispute settlement has borrowed its main elements from the system of commercial arbitration despite the fact that investor-state disputes often raise public interest issues which are usually absent from international commercial arbitration. (2006), Read the full report.
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Bolivian Government guidelines for a fair trade and cooperation treaty with the US
Movimiento Boliviano por la Soberania y la Integracion Solidaria de los pueblos: Contra el TLC y el ALCA, September,2006 (English) Read the full report.
Proposal from Bolivian President Evo Morales concerning:
A People’s Trade Agreement (PTA)
To achieve a true integration among peoples that transcends the commercial and economic arenas, recognizing the differences of each country, and at the same time prioritizing the protection of internal production and national companies. A treaty which holds, above all, the well being of the people and a respect for their history and cultures. Read the full report.
Ecuador’s new constitution and international arbitration
International Law Reporter. Ecuador’s new constitution provides that Ecuador will not enter into international agreements under which Ecuador would have to cede jurisdiction to international arbitral tribunals in contractual or commercial matters between the State and individuals or corporations. October, 2008. Read the full report.
The United States
Improving the International Investment Regime: priorities for the new U.S. Administration
Columbia University report, January 29, 2009. Read the full report.
Regional Alternative Proposals- The Americas
Alternatives for the Americas
While opposing the FTAA, the HSA also is committed to promoting a better kind of economic integration, one that would benefit the peoples and environments of the Americas. This is a new and expanded version of a document developed by the HSA through a collaborative, multi-year process. It includes chapters on human rights, environment and natural resources, sustainability, gender, labor, immigration, role of the state, education, communications, investment, finance, intellectual property, agriculture, market access, services and dispute resolution. Read the full report.
Analysis: Latin American’s new model bilateral investment treaties
Investment Treaty News (July, 2008) Read the full report.
Norway’s Model Bilateral Investment Treaty
Norway issued a draft model bilateral investment treaty (BIT) for public comment December 19, 2007. Read the full report.