Today and tomorrow, the European Commission and Canadian Government are co-hosting in Geneva the first exploratory discussions with government representatives from around the world on the establishment of a multilateral investment court. It will be the first meeting at government-to-government level on this initiative since it was first proposed by the Commission in May 2015.
The ultimate aim is to establish a single permanent body to decide investment disputes, thus moving away from the ad hoc system of investor to state dispute settlement (ISDS) which is currently included in around 3200 investment treaties in force today – of which EU member states have 1400. This future body would be open for all interested countries to join and would adjudicate disputes under both future and existing investment treaties. For EU level agreements, it would also replace the bilateral Investment Court Systems included in EU level agreements with FTA partners.
The discussions today and tomorrow are intended to be the first in a series of meetings to take place in the coming year to move forward on this important initiative.
Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmström and Canada's Minister for International Trade Chrystia Freeland also intend to discuss the multilateral investment court initiative with other trade ministers in the margins of the World Economic Forum in Davos on 20 January 2017.
The establishment of a multilateral investment court is an integral part of the EU's trade and investment strategy, Trade for all, presented in 2015. This involves in parallel the negotiation of a court-like system for resolving investment disputes in EU trade and investment agreements, the "Investment Court System", with a First Instance and an Appeal Tribunal with judges appointed by the agreement partners. As a second step, work should start in parallel with other countries on a permanent multilateral investment court to serve as a global court for investment disputes.
Both the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) signed with Canada and the trade agreement concluded between the EU and Vietnam contain a reference to the establishment of a multilateral investment court. The EU includes similar references in all of its negotiations involving investment.
At Commission level, an impact assessment process on the option of establishing a multilateral investment court is ongoing. A 12-week online public consultation process will be launched before the end of the year and a stakeholder meeting is planned in Brussels by February.
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