Asia

Asian countries have signed over 1100 international investments agreements, most of which include the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism.

The Association of South-East Asian Nations or ASEAN (formed of Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam) also provides investor protection under the ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement (ACIA) which was adopted in 2009.

In addition, new trade deals with ISDS provisions currently concern the region: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

The TPP was sealed in October 2015 between Australia, Canada, Chile, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, the United States and five Asian countries: Brunei, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. Indonesia and Taiwan have claimed their intention to join in. The treaty has yet to be ratified.

The investment chapter has revealed the deal includes the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that would give foreign investors the right to bypass national courts and resort to a parallel system of justice specifically made for them.

RCEP is currently being negotiated between the Asian states of Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam with Australia and New Zealand.

Although still under negotiations, RCEP has been reported to include ISDS provisions. Korea and Japan have submitted proposals likely to be similar to those in their own bilateral agreements and in the TPP text. India should table a different offer.

The Indian government has been considering a revised comprehensive model of bilateral investment treaty (BIT) that would reduce investor rights, compared to other versions of ISDS. An investor would have to exhaust all local remedies before initiating international arbitration. The model BIT is expected to exclude matters relating to government procurement, taxation, subsidies, compulsory licenses and national security.

India has been the most targeted country in the region, with about 15 disputes - the vast majority of which were initiated by West European countries.

End of 2014, Sri Lanka also announced its intention to move away from traditional models of BIT. It quoted thin relationship between BITs and foreign direct investment, past ISDS disputes and the tendency for BITs to constrain domestic policy space as reasons. Sri Lanka favours the enactment of appropriate domestic legislation to protect foreign investment.

In early 2014, Indonesia announced plans to terminate 67 of its BITs, former president Yudhoyono arguing he did not want multinational companies to pressure developing countries. Indonesia is now in the final stage of finalizing a new model of BIT. The country is currently facing a billion-dollar dispute from UK-listed Churchill Mining and a new US$600 million claim from the Indian mining investor India Metals & Ferro Alloys.

(November 2015)

| 5-Jun-2012
In a May 31 press release, the US private equity fund Lone Star said it was planning to request investor state dispute (ISD) arbitration for losses suffered due to "unlawful" interference by the South Korean government.

| 24-May-2012
Churchill Mining (LON:CHL) said it has now filed for international arbitration in its dispute regarding the East Kutai coal project (EKCP) in Indonesia, 75 per cent owned by Churchill.
| 4-May-2012
Assistant U.S. Trade Representative Wendy Cutler ruled out renegotiation of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement on Thursday, saying the deal had been in effect for just six weeks. Her comments foreshadowed a tough time for the Korean government’s efforts to revise the investor-state dispute settlement system under the accord.
The Hankyoreh | 30-Apr-2012
Controversial KORUS FTA clause could lead to ‘legal chaos’, says Korea’s top legal body
| 27-Apr-2012
As India grapples with the Vodafone and 2G fallout, the Bilateral Investment Treaties it signed a few years ago are coming back to haunt it.
| 20-Apr-2012
The country should carefully study investment provisions before entering into foreign trade agreements (FTAs) as these may infringe on government’s regulatory power on foreign firms, an advocacy group on Friday said.
| 6-Apr-2012
India plans to abolish the investor-state dispute system and renegotiate FTAs with South Korea, Singapore, and other countries, an Indian newspaper reported.
Economic Times | 31-Mar-2012
The Indian government is likely to oppose any move by Vodafone Plc to invoke the India-Netherlands Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPA) if it is forced to cough up Rs 12,000 crore in taxes on the grounds that the investment was routed through several step down firms based in different countries and that the treaty does not cover tax disputes.
First Post | 30-Mar-2012
Fearing the Indian government will use new tax laws to trap it back around Rs 12,000 crore in taxes, the world’s largest mobile operator, Vodafone, may invoke a bilateral investment treaty between India and the Netherlands to avoid doing so.
Economic Times | 29-Mar-2012
Norway’s Telenor will seek ’compensation for all investment, guarantees and damages’ if the Indian government fails to sort out issues related to its licence cancellation within the next six months, the company said.

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