Asia

Asian countries have signed almost 2000 international investment agreements, most of which include the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism that gives foreign investors the right to bypass national courts and resort to a parallel system of justice specifically made for them.

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 which was adopted in 2009.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP or TPP for short) includes ISDS provisions with a carve-out for tobacco control measures.
TPP was signed on 7 March 2018 between 11 Pacific Rim countries: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam. It went into force on 30 December 2018 among the members who have ratified it. The US withdrew from it in January 2017.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is a proposed mega regional trade deal. It is currently being negotiated between the Asian states of Brunei, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam with Australia and New Zealand. India pulled out of RCEP in December 2019.

RCEP originally included ISDS, but following opposition from civil society groups and some governments, negotiators agreed to exclude it in September 2019. However the negotiating states said they will look into it again at a later stage and assess whether or not to include it.

India has been the most targeted country in the region, with 25 known disputes - the majority of which were initiated by West European countries. Turkey has been the most frequent home state for investors, with 35 cases.

In July 2019, Pakistan was ordered to pay over US$5 billion to Chilean and Canadian investors (Antofagasta and Barrick) which had brought an ISDS claim against the country using the Australia-Pakistan bilateral investment treaty. The case involved a gold and copper mine, for which an exploration permit had been denied. The mining companies had only invested about US$200 million.

Several governments in the region have said they would reform the mechanism. At the end of 2014, Sri Lanka announced its intention to move away from traditional models of BIT. It cited the 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 that it would terminate 67 of its BITs. Former president Yudhoyono argued that he did not want multinational companies to pressure developing countries. 21 BITs were terminated in 2015. Indonesia has drafted a new model of BIT, but it hasn’t been adopted yet.

In December 2015, India released a revised model BIT which, for instance, requires investors to exhaust domestic remedies (Indian courts) before turning to international arbitration and leaves out “fair and equitable treatment” provisions. Consequently India sent notices to 58 countries terminating or not renewing BITs that had expired. In January 2020, it signed a BIT with Brazil that excludes ISDS and favours dispute prevention as well as state-to-state dispute settlement.

(April 2020)

| 15-Sep-2006
Mining company Oxus Gold PLC said it is seeking an arbitration order to protect its investments in Kyrgyzstan, following the government-sponsored seizure of premises owned by Talas Gold Mining Co, Oxus’ joint venture company at Jerooy. Oxus said that representatives of Jerooyaltyn, a recently created joint venture between Kyrgyzaltyn and Global G.o.l.d, and local police forcibly took possession of the building on Thursday in direct contravention of the UK-Kyrgyz Bilateral Investment Treaty and Kyrgyz law.
| 30-Aug-2006
The Philippines and Japan have agreed to settle all disputes domestically under the proposed Economic Partnership Agreement unless the Secretaries of Trade of both countries agree to bring the dispute to an international arbitration court.
| 9-Aug-2006
"We are learning new things while we’re negotiating with the American representatives," said a Korean official who was part of the labor section negotiation team during the first round of the Korea-U.S. FTA talks, held in Washington last June. "The U.S. is demanding the introduction of a so-called ’public communication system,’ which was a term that we heard for the first time," the negotiator told Hankyoreh.
Manila Bulletin | 18-May-2006
The Philippines and Japan are moving towards adopting arbitration procedures in settling disputes to avoid lengthy and expensive court battles in protecting investments from both sides as they finalize their proposed bilateral free trade pact.
| 5-Jan-2006
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) yesterday asked the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision allowing the government to take over Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) only after payment of an initial P3.002 billion to the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (PIATCO) representing the proffered value of the facilities.
Khaleej Times | 5-Jan-2006
A high powered US delegation is arriving here on 18 of this month to hold talks with the Pakistani authorities to finalise the BIT, in the absence of which, Washington was unprepared to sign Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Pakistan.
Dawn | 24-Aug-2005
Pakistan has asked the United States to sign the proposed Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) by dropping its demand that in case of an arbitration only the Washington based International Centre for Settlement of Disputes (ICSID) should be approached for a decision.
Indian Express | 15-Jul-2005
The Indian government and Bechtel have reached an agreement on ‘‘all issues’’ related to the Dabhol project. The settlement agreement between the two was signed on Tuesday thereby completing the entire settlement process with both stakeholders - GE and Bechtel - in the Dabhol power venture.
Newind Press | 8-Jul-2005
The Dabhol settlement process is almost complete with US-based Bechtel Corp finally informing the Indian side that it’s willing to settle and not proceed with international arbitration.
Bangkok Post | 6-May-2005
The Thai government must become more efficient and enact more ironclad laws in order to avoid unnecessary legal disputes with US investors once the Thailand-US free trade area (FTA) agreement takes effect, says a local researcher.

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