On 30 April 2019, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU“) confirmed that the mechanism for the settlement of disputes between investors and states set out in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada (“CETA“) was compatible with EU law. This confirms the Attorney General’s opinion discussed here.
The CJEU’s opinion will lend support to the EU’s effort to develop the tribunals established under trade agreements like CETA into a permanent and multilateral Investment Court System (“ICS“) in future.
Head of Herbert Smith Freehills’ Global Arbitration Practice, Paula Hodges QC, has officially begun her Presidency of the LCIA Court. Lauded by the legal directories as “brilliant” and the “most complete arbitration practitioner in London”, Paula has over 25 years’ experience advising clients in international disputes, particularly in the energy, telecommunications and technology sectors. Paula has been Vice President of the Court for several years and also a LCIA Board member for a decade. Paula has taken over the role from outgoing President Judith Gill QC in May 2019 and will continue in practice at Herbert Smith Freehills whilst undertaking her new LCIA responsibilities.
The English High Court’s decision in State A v Party B  EWHC 799 (Comm), handed down in January 2019 but only recently published, concerned the court’s dismissal of an application to extend the time for bringing a jurisdictional challenge under section 67 of the Arbitration Act 1996 in circumstances where the challenge was 959 days late (available here).
The decision found that where the delay is lengthy and the application for an extension is based on fresh evidence, an extension will only be justified by fresh evidence that is “transformational” or “seismic“. The decision illustrates the importance that the English court places on the timeliness of challenges to awards and the high threshold that must be met in order to obtain an extension.
The Dutch Government has recently published the final version of its model Bilateral Investment Treaty (the Model BIT). The key changes since the May 2018 Draft Model BIT (discussed in our blog post here) are addressed below.
The Model BIT includes some practical guidance for investors as to how the requirement of “substantive business interests” in a Contracting Party may be fulfilled. Among the innovative provisions, it includes a potential liability on investors in their home State for significant damage, personal injury or loss of life caused in the host State and a commitment to promote equal opportunities and participation for women and men in the economy.
The Model BIT reflects a change in emphasis in modern international investment agreements. The investor protections remain but there is an undoubted rebalancing of the operation of those provisions in the context of the treaty as a whole to address what is perceived by many to be a historic investor-bias in treaty drafting. Further, the Model BIT seeks to implement policy aims through a number of provisions which require recognition of, or aspirational behaviour towards, the achievement of certain development goals by the Contracting Parties.
Herbert Smith Freehills’ London-based international arbitration partners Paula Hodges QC, Craig Tevendale, Nicholas Peacock, Andrew Cannon and Chris Parker have all been named amongst 200 leading lawyers in Legal 500’s inaugural UK International Arbitration Powerlist.
The list, which is based on extensive research by Legal 500, highlights the UK’s leading arbitration practitioners working in law firms and at the Bar. The research is based upon submissions, client referees, interviews and feedback to refine the top arbitrators globally.
The firm’s international arbitration team in the UK has been described by Legal 500 as a ‘strong team of dedicated lawyers who master complex subject matters… the advice is pragmatic, measured and fit for purpose’.
UK Head of Arbitration Craig Tevendale commented: “We are all thrilled to feature in the inaugural “Powerlist” amongst esteemed colleagues from within the UK arbitration community, a great many of whom we recently hosted at our London Arbitration Community Dinner. It is fantastic to have all five partners recognised in this way”.
The Tribunal in Gabriel Resources v Romania recently issued an order (the Order) in response to an application (the Application) made by three Romanian NGOs, as non-disputing parties, for participation and an amicus submission (the Submission) in an ICSID arbitration under the Canada-Romania BIT (the BIT). Gabriel Resources’ allegations of breach of the BIT arise in relation to a proposed open pit mining development in Roşia Montană, Romania (the Project) which was not implemented.
The Tribunal granted the Application in part, admitting only certain sections of the Submission to the extent that they referred to factual issues within the specific knowledge of the Applicants and in relation to the interests which the Applicants claim to be protected. However, the Tribunal denied admission to arguments on the law, as well as references to or reliance on testimonies which could not be tested by cross-examination. The Tribunal also rejected the NGOs’ request to attend and participate in the oral hearing.
The Tribunal’s analysis of the conditions relevant to an application by non-disputing parties – and its approach of considering each section of the Submission in relation to those conditions (rather than the Submission as a whole) – provides a significant contribution to jurisprudence in this area. The application in Gabriel Resources is also consistent with a general increase in such third party interventions, particularly in disputes which touch on issues of public interest, such as environmental protection, public health measures, labour standards, cultural rights and/or human rights. Such a trend is likely to continue with civil society becoming more active in this context.
One of the Advocates General to the Court of Justice of the European Union, Advocate General Bot, has issued an opinion confirming that the mechanism for the settlement of disputes between investors and states provided for in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between the EU and Canada (the CETA) is compatible with European Union law.
We discuss the content of the Advocate General’s opinion on our new blog piece, published on our Public International Law blog here.
For further information please contact Andrew Cannon, Partner, Hannah Ambrose, Senior Associate, Vanessa Naish, Professional Support Consultant, Rebecca Warder, Professional Support Lawyer, or your usual Herbert Smith Freehills contact.
The European Federation for Investment Law and Arbitration (EFILA) will be holding its fourth Annual Conference, on 31 January 2019, at Herbert Smith Freehills’ offices in London. The conference will focus on four topics:
- the EU’s external investment policy;
- the EU’s investment policy towards Asia;
- constructing a multilateral investment court: the path ahead; and
- the EU’s Energy investment policy.
In Micula & Ors v Romania  EWCA Civ 1801 the English Court of Appeal (the “Court”) dismissed an appeal against the High Court’s stay of enforcement of a 2013 ICSID award in favour of Swedish investors Ioan and Viorel Micula (the “Appellants” or “claimants“) against Romania (the “Award“), but allowed an appeal against the High Court’s refusal to order Romania to provide security.
The Court’s judgment is interesting because although it reaches the same conclusion as the High Court in respect of staying enforcement of the Award, it does so for different reasons. In particular, the Court found (by majority) that:
- The High Court was correct to find that an ICSID award is res judicata under English law from the time of the award.
- Although the English Arbitration (International Investment Disputes) Act 1966 (the “1966 Act“), which implements the ICSID Convention into English law, requires that ICSID awards be treated in the same way as judgments of the High Court, this does not mean that EU law applies in the same way as it would apply to domestic judgments simply because the UK is a member state at the date of registration of the award.
- The principle of res judicata cannot be used to circumvent or significantly obstruct state aid rules (per the CJEU case of Klausner).
- Only operative terms (and not, for example, recitals) of EU Commission decisions are legally binding.
The Court’s decision is the latest in the long-running Micula saga, which began as a dispute arising out of Romania’s abolition of certain tax incentives in 2005 in order to comply with EU rules on state aid. Please see here for our blog post on the ICSID award.
The Award has been the target of decisions of the European Commission. In its final decision of 30 March 2015 (the “Final Decision“), the Commission found that payment of the Award by Romania would constitute new state aid incompatible with EU law, and was therefore prohibited. Please see here for our blog post on the Final Decision. The claimants have applied to the General Court of the European Union (the “GCEU“) to annul the Final Decision. The GCEU heard the application in March 2018 and a judgment is awaited.
In 2017, the High Court refused Romania’s application to set aside registration of the Award, but granted a stay of enforcement pending the decision of the GCEU on the annulment application. The Commission intervened in those proceedings. The High Court refused the claimants’ application for security in the meantime on the basis that it would itself risk breaching the Final Decision. The Appellants appealed against both the stay of enforcement and refusal to make the stay conditional upon payment of security. Please see here for our blog post on the High Court’s judgment, which was the subject of the present appeal.
On 17 July 2018, the EU-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was formally signed during the EU-Japan summit in Tokyo. The EPA – the largest free trade agreement ever negotiated by the EU – has been years in the making and took significant time and effort to get to this stage. You can read more about the steps to date in our earlier post here.
The EPA aims to remove trade barriers between the EU and Japan, making it easier for firms to sell goods and services between the two economies. It will create the world’s largest open trade zone, covering nearly a third of global GDP, almost 40 percent of world trade and more than 600 million people.
The partnership also goes beyond trade, with wider social and political implications. Given its scope of coverage, the EPA may encourage the development of global trade rules consistent with EU and Japanese standards. The EPA also sends a powerful signal that two of the world’s largest economies explicitly reject trade protectionism. Continue reading