International agreements to promote foreign investment, including both standalone investment treaties and investment chapters in trade and investment agreements, have attracted extensive public attention in recent years. One area of particular controversy has been the effect of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arrangements provided for under investment treaties. These mechanisms allow businesses to sue governments over state conduct that adversely affects them, and have raised concerns about the balance of public and private interests in international economic governance. Their potentially far-reaching implications fuelled extensive civil society advocacy in 2016.
ISDS mechanisms featured prominently in public mobilisation around three proposed trade and investment agreements: the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the TransPacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). While the status of the TPP and TTIP are now in doubt given the recent political changes in the USA, ISDS proposals will remain an important issue as other deals are brokered. This includes potential agreements between the UK and other states once the UK exits the European Union, and possibly the bilateral treaties mentioned by the new Trump administration in the USA.