European Union and Canada co-host discussions on a multilateral investment court

On December 13 and 14, 2016, the European Commission and the Canadian Government co-hosted exploratory discussions on establishing a multilateral investment court. Government representatives from several countries attended the closed-door meeting in Geneva.

Upon concluding CETA, the two hosts had vowed to “work expeditiously” to create a permanent investment court, building on the ICS mechanism included in the agreement. The goal of the new court is to replace the existing regime of ad hoc investor–state arbitration as well as bilateral ICS mechanisms included in EU trade and investment agreements. It would be open to all interested countries to resolve disputes under existing and future investment treaties.

Argentina, Brazil, India, Japan and other nations reportedly rejected the initiative, which Canada and the European Union continued to advance at the World Economic Forum (WEF), in Switzerland. Indian Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that “India summarily rejected” the idea that CETA, incorporating an investor–state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism, could be the template for a similar multilateral agreement.

In the occasion, Minister Sitharaman also emphasized India’s position in favour of requiring investors to exhaust local remedies before resorting to international tribunals: “Only after all local options have been exhausted for settling disputes between a corporate and a government, do we want to permit issues to be taken up in international arbitration tribunals.”

On February 27, the European Commission held a stakeholder meeting on a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution. It is also holding a public consultation on options for a multilateral reform of investment dispute resolution, due to close on March 15.

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