Interview with Nicolás M. Perrone: Investment Treaties and the Legal Imagination – Part II: More than winning and losing

 In part I of this series, Dr Nicolás Perrone and ILA Reporter Assistant Editor Stephanie Triefus discussed the meaning of the legal imagination. This part elaborates on the content of Dr Perrone’s book and how and why the debate around how we talk about international investment law should evolve. 

ST: In your book you discuss the Philip Morris v Uruguay arbitration, which is similar to the claim brought against Australia by Philip Morris via the Australia-Hong Kong BIT. The current Australian government is not concerned about ISDS because Australia ‘won’ this arbitration, and so continues to favour ISDS in its review of its investment agreements. What does the reasoning in these awards tell us (or conceal) about how investment arbitrators conceive of the state’s right to regulate? 

NP: There is a document from the Cologne Society from around 1956 or 1957 that was submitted to the World Bank, that was saying that state regulation is very dangerous, and we should be careful about it. But then when more lawyers got involved, they were more nuanced, saying that of course the state needs to regulate, regulation is totally fine – the American Bar Association was saying that certain regulations are fine, but other regulations go too far. Something that they were very interested in back then was to make it impossible for Global South governments to expropriate when a provision prohibiting nationalisation was included in concession contracts. So they wanted to interpret a contract in a way that could trump states’ right to expropriate, even if that right was part of customary international law and enshrined in the General Assembly Resolution on Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources. So it’s not always obvious which regulation is the one that they want to prevent or make more difficult to implement. It depends on corporate needs, existing public policy and, of course, lawyers’ creativity.

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Interview with Nicolás M. Perrone: Investment Treaties and the Legal Imagination – Part I: How we imagine international investment law

International investment law has been facing an increasing amount of negative publicity of late. Its detractors maintain that investment treaties constrain state regulatory space, affecting human rights and environmental measures, and exclude local communities from participating in decisions affecting them. On the other hand, proponents of investment treaties claim that they are necessary to facilitate development and that investment arbitration strikes a fair balance between investor rights and the public interest. In his monograph Investment Treaties and the Legal Imagination, recently published by Oxford University Press, Dr Nicolás Perrone contributes a historical perspective to this debate. Under the international investment law regime, foreign investors enjoy a privileged position; they have strongly enforceable rights, but no obligations. Perrone shows that the unusual status of foreign investors in international law is no accident, but rather the result of a “world-making project realized by a coalition of business leaders, bankers, and their lawyers in the 1950s and 1960s”. This world-making project, which is still alive and well in the legal imagination of investment lawmakers and practitioners today, maintains the power of corporate actors while silencing and making invisible those who are affected by investment projects.  

Dr Perrone is a Research Associate Professor at Universidad Andrés Bello, Chile, and has previously taught at Durham University and Universidad Externado de Colombia. Dr Perrone has been Visiting Professor at Universidad Nacional de San Martín, the International University College of Turin, and Università del Piemonte Orientale, a faculty member of the Institute for Global Law and Policy (Harvard Law School) and a Visiting Lecturer at Xi’an Jiaotong School of Law. Dr Perrone has also consulted for the OECD and worked as a legal fellow for UNCTAD. 

Dr Perrone joined Assistant Editor Stephanie Triefus for a conversation about his monograph and how academics and policymakers should reflect on the legal imagination of investment law as they engage in reform of the international investment law regime. 

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Interview with Dr Julie Fraser: Social Institutions and International Human Rights Law Implementation – Part II: Social institutions and dynamism

In Part I of this series, Dr Julie Fraser and ILA Reporter Assistant Editor Stephanie Triefus discussed how social institutions can be used to overcome the lack of resonance of human rights discourse around the world, including Australia. This part delves deeper into what social institutions are, how they change, and busts some myths about the concept of culture.

ST: Religion is so structured that it seems to have more in common with public institutions, whereas other social institutions like the media, universities etc are more fast and loose, so it really depends on who sets up these organisations and what their intentions are. 

JF: I like the term fast and loose! I think I phrase it in my book as ‘dynamic and evolving’. But that really is it. All of these social situations, because they’re part of our culture, are fast and loose – to varying degrees. Even though we might think of religion as ancient and that we’ve had these practices for sometimes thousands of years, they are constantly changing. For example, Muslims may still pray five times a day, but they now can download smartphone apps that tell the prayer times and play the call to prayer.  So yes, the norms and rules do change based on different influences, and this is the beauty of social institutions: they give the perception of permanence despite constant evolution. We can all be agents within our culture – and if we can bring our social institutions more in line with human rights, then it can be really powerful. And that approach again goes against the legalistic top-down approach. Instead of the international community or national government imposing certain rules, it’s individual people within their social institutions saying, ‘we want these rules’. In my case study, it was Muslim women from within Islamic organisations saying, ‘we want equality and we want reproductive rights’. And that is really powerful.

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Interview with Dr Julie Fraser: Social Institutions and International Human Rights Law Implementation – Part I: Lessons for international human rights implementation in Australia

Human rights are now extensively codified in international treaties that enjoy widespread State ratification. The pressing challenge of today is therefore the realisation of human rights in States parties around the world. This has been a difficult task for both governments and international human rights bodies that supervise human rights compliance, which have to date typically taken a legalistic approach. Prioritising State-centric legislative measures in the implementation of human rights, while necessary to an extent, is not always the most effective method of translating human rights law into lived experience. The use of non-legal, culturally sensitive measures is typically neglected in international human rights discourse, to the detriment of implementation in societies where human rights can be seen as a foreign imposition. Dr Julie Fraser’s book Social Institutions and International Human Rights Law Implementation: Every Organ of Society, recently published by Cambridge University Press, addresses this problem by examining the permissibility of other measures of implementation and advocating culturally sensitive approaches for realising human rights. Dr Julie Fraser is a human rights lawyer with experience in both academia and practice. As an Assistant Professor with the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) at Utrecht University, Dr Fraser has published, presented, and taught on topics including human rights law, women’s rights, and transitional justice.

Using Islam in Indonesia as a case study, Dr Fraser demonstrates how the right to reproductive health has been successfully implemented through the central involvement of Islamic law and institutions, complemented by grassroots advocacy by Muslim women. Dr Fraser joined Assistant Editor Stephanie Triefus for a conversation about her study and its resonance for Australia’s domestic implementation of human rights.

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Reciprocal Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Judgments in China: Breakthrough and Trend – Associate Professor Jeanne Huang

Chinese Civil Procedure Law (CPL) provides that foreign judgments can be recognised and enforced according to reciprocity if no treaty is applicable. However, although Chinese judgments have been recognised and enforced in many countries without a treaty, China had never reciprocated before 2016.[1]Since 2016, Chinese courts unprecedentedly recognised and enforced foreign monetary judgments based on de facto reciprocity. This spurs rich literature with mixed views about the future direction of reciprocity-based judicial recognition and enforcement (JRE) in China.[2] This post aims to add to the current debate from two aspects. First, it tries to answer the doubts in contemporary literature about whether the two foreign judgments recognised and enforced in 2016 and 2017 are fortuitous. Second, it addresses the question of what the trend of the Chinese reciprocity-based JRE law might be.

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The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in International Law: Strategic Lessons from Latin America – A/Prof. Lucas Lixinski

It is well-known that when the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) was being voted on in the United Nations General Assembly in 2007, only four states voted against it: the infamous CANZUS countries (Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States). They have all since changed their position and shown varying degrees of support for the UNDRIP and what it contains.

It is noteworthy, however, that these are four developed countries with histories of English colonization and common law systems. The reluctance of these states to engage with the UNDRIP would suggest that other countries, more supportive of that process, would offer better lessons for strategic engagement. And yet, in Anglophone circles we tend to neglect the experiences of other parts of the world, particularly Latin America.

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Philosophy, Priorities and Provisional Measures: The ICJ’s Order on the United States’ Sanctions against Iran – Molly Thomas

On 3 October 2018, the International Court of Justice (“the Court”) handed down its decision on provisional measures in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s (“Iran”) case against the United States of America (“United States”) for alleged violations of the 1955 Treaty of Amity, Economic Relations and Consular Rights (“Treaty of Amity”).

The case arose out of the issuing by United States President Donald Trump of a National Security Presidential Memorandum ending the United States’ participation in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), a multilateral plan designed to monitor and manage Iran’s compliance with its nuclear disarmament by lifting sanctions imposed on Iran by major world powers, including the United States.  The President ordered that sanctions lifted under the Obama Presidency be reimposed.

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A Tad on the Intersection between Climate Change and Free Trade Agreements – Dr Jadranka Petrovic

Climate change is considered to be one of the most serious (‘the most serious’?) of all the threats that our planet is facing currently.  Research shows that in its potential impact, climate change poses a graver problem than weapons of mass destruction, cyber war, terrorism, armed conflict and every other peril. One of the main reasons that climate change figures strongly is due to its interrelatedness with other problems, including the adverse effects of international trade on the environment. It has been argued that although beneficial and indispensable economically, trade can exacerbate pollution and other forms of environmental degradation, particularly carbon dioxide (CO₂) emissions.  An unprecedented expansion of international trade since the 1950s has significantly impacted upon the environment.  Trade is predicted to continue to be one of the major factors driving economic growth in the future.  In parallel, it is expected that carbon dioxide emissions will continue to accelerate with growth indefinitely and that the very fact of increased trade, in and of itself, will lead directly to more global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.  As free trade agreements (FTAs) are being increasingly negotiated throughout the world,[1]the questions of whether and how these agreements can be used to support a successful transition to a low emission and resilient economy is becoming more and more significant.  By considering the effects of climate change on the Great Barrier Reef in Australia as an example, this article pinpoints (albeit tangentially) some of the trade-climate-change-related concerns in the context of the recently signed Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for the Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP).

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The Supreme Court of the Philippines’ Review of Duterte’s Exit from the International Criminal Court: The Role of Domestic Courts in the Treaty Withdrawal Debate – Keilin Anderson

The questions of how, when and why States can withdraw from international agreements and with what consequences have long been overlooked in international law. The topic is even likened to mentioning divorce on a wedding day. However, the recent spate of withdrawals has bought the issue to the forefront of the international legal dialogue.

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The Nuclear Weapon Prohibition Treaty – Prof. Ramesh Thakur

For half a century, the normative anchor of the global nuclear order has been the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). On 27 October 2016, the First Committee of the United Nations General Assembly adopted, by a landslide 123-38 vote (with 16 abstentions), Resolution A/C.1/71/L.41 that called for negotiations on a ‘legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination’. This was followed by a vote in the full General Assembly on 23 December passed by an equally solid 113-35 majority. The resolution fulfilled the 127-nation humanitarian pledge ‘to stigmatise, prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons’. The UN-mandated conference met in New York on 27–31 March and 15 June–7 July 2017. On 7 July, 122 states voted to adopt a new Nuclear-Weapon Prohibition Treaty (NWPT). It was opened for signature in the UN General Assembly on 20 September 2017. The treaty will come into effect 90 days after fifty states have ratified it. As of 30 September 2018, 19 countries had ratified the treaty and 60 had signed it.

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