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international litigation blog

Opinion 1/17 on CETA: Advocate General Bot Finds Investment Court System in CETA compatible with EU law

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This article has jointly been co-authored by Quentin Declève and Isabelle Van Damme

On 29 January 2019, Advocate General Bot delivered his long-awaited Opinion (the Opinion) on whether the investment court system (ICS) in Chapter Eight, Section F, of the European Union-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is compatible with European Union (EU) law, in particular with the autonomy of the EU legal order and fundamental rights. The next step in the proceedings before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), initiated by Belgium following complications in its ratification process, is for the CJEU to deliver its Opinion on the same question (see previous post here and report of the hearing before the CJEU here).

This article discusses the key elements of the Opinion and the implications of these CJEU proceedings on the European Union’s common commercial policy and its policy of advocating reform of existing investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS) and the establishment of a multilateral investment court (MIC).READ MORE

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ISDS Reform, Intra-EU BITs and CETA: New and Upcoming Developments

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On 19 January 2019, the European Union submitted new proposals to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL) Working Group III (WGIII) tasked with examining the reform of investor-State dispute settlement (ISDS).

As we have reported before (see here, here, here and here), discussions are currently being held within WGIII on a possible reform of ISDS mechanisms. Those rounds of discussions take place twice a year (in April and in November) and were initiated in November 2017. The discussions are divided into three distinct phases: identifying concerns about ISDS (Phase I); considering whether reform of the current system is desirable in the light of any identified concerns (Phase II); and designing options for reform responding to any such concerns (Phase III).

After its 36th Session (which took place in Vienna in October-November 2018), WGIII has now almost completed Phase II of its mandate.

In order to move into Phase III and start discussing concrete reform options, the Chairman of WGIII has invited countries involved in the discussions to submit proposals regarding the content of such reform as well as the roadmap to achieve those reforms. Those proposals would then be discussed during the next meeting of WGIII in April 2019.

In light of this invitation, the EU has now submitted two papers to the WGIII Secretariat.READ MORE

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Belgian Parliament Amends Bill Establishing Brussels International Business Court

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On 10 December 2018, the Commission for Justice of the Belgian Parliament published a second draft bill (the Bill) for the creation of the Brussels International Business Court (the BIBC). The Belgian government had already approved a first draft in October 2017 and submitted it to Parliament in May 2018. The Bill now aims to reflect the opinions expressed by the Belgian Council of State and of the High Council of Justice (Hoge Raad voor de Justitie/Conseil supérieur de la Justice), as well as the amendments suggested by various members of the Parliament. This being said, the key features of the BIBC remain largely unchanged.READ MORE

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EU Requests Consultations with South Korea under EU-Korea Trade Agreement Over Labour Rights Commitments

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Dear Readers, Happy New Year!

In order to kick-start the year, I wanted to draw your attention to a very interesting development that took place in the field of international trade law at the end of 2018.

On 17 December 2018, the European Union (the EU) requested formal consultations with South Korea following Korea’s failure to implement certain sustainable developments commitments made under the EU-Korea Trade Agreement.

This request for consultations (which was made under Article 13.14 of the EU-Korea Trade Agreement) is the first phase of formal dispute settlement provided for in Chapter 13 of the EU-Korea Trade Agreement. Those consultations will give the EU and Korea an opportunity to discuss the matter, create a channel of communications and find an amicable solution.READ MORE

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Commisimpex Saga – 2018 Developments in France on State Immunity from Execution

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Before 2018 comes to an end, I wanted to report on the developments on State immunity from execution (and more particularly on the Commisimpex saga) that took place in France this year.

The Commisimpex saga relates to a dispute between Société Commissions Import Export (Commisimpex) and the Republic of Congo (Congo) regarding unpaid debts due by Congo to Commisimpex.

After having obtained two ICC awards in its favour in 2000 and 2013, Commisimpex sought to enforce them against Congo in France.

In a notable case, it sought to attach banks accounts held by the Congolese embassy in Paris as well as by the Congolese delegation to UNESCO. In addition to the arbitral awards, Commisimpex relied on a waiver granted by Congo in the 1990s which entitled Commisimpex to attach diplomatic assets.READ MORE

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Modernizing ICSID’s Rules for Resolving Investment Disputes

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By Martina Polasek and Damon Vis-Dunbar[1]

The procedural rules of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Dispute  (ICSID) have been successfully applied to hundreds of cases since they were first adopted in 1967, a remarkable testament to the innovative spirit and foresight of the original drafters. The robustness of the rules has also made the task of gradual modernization much easier.

The rules have, in fact, evolved over the last 50 years. In 1978, the ICSID Additional Facility was created, offering arbitration, conciliation, and fact-finding services to disputes that fall outside the scope of the ICSID Convention – namely where only one of the parties is an ICSID Member State or national of one, or where the dispute does not arise “directly” out of an investment between a state and a foreign national.

There have been three subsequent rounds of rule changes, the most recent of which entered into force in April 2006. Those amendments included strengthened disclosure requirements for arbitrators; expanded transparency provisions (including a provision allowing open hearings); and a new rule allowing a party to obtain an early dismissal of a case due to manifest lack of legal merit[2].

As readers of this blog may be aware, ICSID is now in the process of updating its rules for the fourth time. Notably, the amendments under consideration are the most extensive to date. They cover the ICSID Regulations and Rules, adopted pursuant to the ICSID Convention; the Additional Facility Rules; the Administrative and Financial Regulations; and the Institution Rules.READ MORE

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