Corruption and International Treaty Developments in Asia

Written by: Luke Nottage (University of Sydney) and Nobumichi Teramura (Universiti Brunei Darussalam)

[Ed. Note: Our related new book was launched by the Attorney-General of Brunei at a symposium held there on 28 May 2028 (as reported here). A follow-up seminar, also including some new research emerging from the book, will be held at USydney Law School on 1 August at 5 for 5.30-7pm (further details here and Nobu’s presentation/overview Powerpoints also for LSA presentation here)]

Corruption remains a serious problem in most parts of Asia. The economic effects are serious, regionally and globally, and the COVID-19 pandemic sometimes made the situation worse. Emergency measures for government procurement and management of the economy expanded opportunities for graft and impacted adversely on enforcement activities.

This problem has persisted for many years despite many new legal instruments aimed at or potentially impacting on corruption, as explored also in our recent book (open-access, so PDFs freely downloadable).

First, the OECD Convention (signed from 1997), prompted by the US enacting the Foreign Corrupt Officials Act two decades earlier, focused on the ‘supply side’. Developed economy member states (including Japan and Korea in Asia) committed to criminalising at home the bribery of foreign officials. Secondly, the UN Convention (signed from 2005, by almost all Asian states) covered bribery of both domestic and foreign officials, including also the ‘demand side’ (solicitation and receiving bribes).

However, the commitments under these multilateral treaties are often quite general, not setting for example any minimum criminal penalties for bribery. As Anselmo Reyes elaborates in his co-authored chapter, both treaties also leave open the possibility of allowing ‘facilitation payments’ – smaller ‘grease money’ payments to expedite routine government transactions like permits. Canada disallowed these under 2017 legislation but Australia’s 2024 amendments retain this possibility – perhaps reflecting the arguments of some economists (investigated in our book by Ahmed M Khalid, Bruno Jetin and others with econometric studies) that such low-level bribery in fact may be efficient.

In addition, even for the core commitments under both treaties, there is not much incentive for transparent and effective enforcement by member states. This is especially true in developing economies with less media freedom and/or democratic accountability – also under pressure. Scrutiny of enforcement under these treaties relies mainly on ‘peer review’ mechanisms that take years to implement, and recommendations on member states for improvements are not binding.

Some states have created new anti-corruption agencies and even courts, as in Indonesia and Thailand, but have faced political backlash. Others, like Vietnam and China, have sometimes vigorously enforced anti-corruption laws (including through the death penalty), but some suspect this is done selectively for political purposes.

A few Asia-Pacific states (such as Thailand and now in Australia) have followed the lead of the UK’s Anti-Bribery Act 2010, which specifically sanctions firms that do not take reasonable measures to introduce anti-bribery compliance schemes. This makes mandatory a feature of the opt-in UN Global Compact scheme that (larger) companies have started to sign up to. They may anyway be conscious of pressures from investors influenced by environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations.

This slow and sporadic transition towards taking corruption more seriously is also evident in provisions found in free trade agreements (FTAs) entered into by developed countries and regions: the EU, the US, Canada and (notably in Asia) Japan. These treaties also commit member states to both enact and enforce anti-bribery laws. They are reflected in some ‘mega-regional’ FTAs like the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (Chapter 17) and in more detail the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (Chapter 26), but curiously not in the recently signed Second Protocol to the ASEAN Australia New Zealand FTA (except regarding government procurement: Chapter 17).

Typically, however, these treaties too are broadly worded, and corruption-related enforcement issues are not subject to their inter-state dispute settlement provisions that help make the commitments more credible. This limitation also seems to apply to the new  WTO Investment Facilitation Agreement (although its text is not yet public).

Corruption issues have been cropping up also increasingly, especially from around 2010, in investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitrations initiated under FTA investment chapters or standalone bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Occasionally under such international investment agreements (IIAs), a foreign investor claims compensation because host state officials solicited a bribe in contravention of the ‘fair and equitable treatment’ commitment under the IIA.

More often, the host state raises as a defence against an ISDS claim that the allegation that the foreign investor made a bribe when making the investment, so it is not covered under the IIA. If the arbitral tribunal agrees, it may decline jurisdiction, so the investor loses all treaty rights under international investment law and is left to the vagaries of host state law and court procedures. This typically arises where the IIA specifies expressly that it only covers investments made ‘in accordance with host state law’. Such outcomes may indeed incentivise foreign investors to avoid any form of bribery.

However, what evidence will prove such bribery, especially given that arbitrators (unlike anti-corruption agencies or courts) lack powers vis-à-vis third parties (like banks)? What if the alleged corruption is minor, vigorously solicited by public officials, commonplace and/or systemic in the host state? And what if it leads to the perverse incentive of the host state deliberately seeking a bribe, never enforcing sanctions against the official, but keeping evidence of the bribe as a ‘get out of jail free card’ if ever the foreign investor brings an ISDS claim after the host state discriminates or otherwise violates substantive commitments given under the IIA to encourage inbound investment? Focusing on East and South Asia, we and other authors in our book focus on possible more nuanced solutions for such scenarios, under existing or revised IIAs.

Overall, addressing corruption requires a careful assessment of its various manifestations, some much worse than others (as argued for China, for example). But it should also carefully consider the procedural mechanisms under both national law and international treaty law that help ensure appropriate enforcement of substantive commitments made by states.

Australia’s Anti-ISDS Approach Again: AANZFTA Protocol To Be Ratified

Around 21 May 2024, after I had presented a submission and oral evidence at a public hearing late March, the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) issued its Report 215 agreeing that the Australian government should proceed to ratify the ASEAN Australia NZ Agreement for a Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) Second Protocol. This is despite the Labor Government in November 2022 declaring that it will not agree to any form of investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS), relevantly arbitration, in future treaties; and will approach counterparties seeking to remove or otherwise revise ISDS provisions under existing treaties. The Protocol includes a Work Program to review the ISDS provisions, within 18 months of coming into force, which will proceed largely in parallel to a review of the investment chapter also in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) FTA, which might involve adding ISDS provisions, as it includes the same 12 states party but also three big FDI exporting economies that have generally favoured ISDS: Japan, Korea and China.

In the JSCOT inquiry into ratifying the AANZFTA Second Protocol, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and a small NGO (the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network, AFTINET, which has persistently objected to ISDS in IIAs in parliamentary inquiries) recommended against ratification due to the Second Protocol retaining ISDS for at least the next few years. My Submission recommended ratification, explaining some of the context for ISDS (along the lines and other cited writings mentioned above) and appending my 2020 Submission to DFAT’s review of old IIAs (reiterating where the Second Protocol’s work programme might make some further drafting improvements around ISDS, especially to further enhance transparency and efficiency). We three were then invited to give (concurrently) oral evidence to JSCOT on 25 March 2023.[1]

The ACTU and AFTINET presented a very broad (and curiously similar) definition of ISDS:  a procedure giving corporations additional rights to sue governments for compensation if they can argue a change in law or policy will harm or impinge on their future profits. They also both highlighted the three claims recently brought under AANZFTA against Australia by Zeph (a Singapore-incorporated company controlled by Australian mining magnate and politician Clive Palmer) and more generally the risks of regulatory chill to sovereign states particularly from fossil fuel investors, as well as the costs of defending claims even when states prevail. (Similar arguments were presented in the Open Letter from Australian academics and lawyers opposing ISDS, circulating from May 2024.[2]) AFTINET also asserted that there was no good evidence that ISDS-backed IIAs promoted FDI flows and that recent IIAs were omitting ISDS – including supposedly for India and New Zealand, but also the EU and Brazil.

My own evidence countered that ISDS claims require additionally proof of violation of substantive commitments offered by host states, that the Zeph claims face difficulties and anyway Australia does not close down its courts due to occasional aggressive litigants, while its outbound investors also protect their investments abroad through ISDS claims – particularly against states with governance issues. I also reiterated that there is some evidence ISDS-backed IIAs promote cross-border FDI, developing economies are failing to attract sufficient FDI to support the global energy transition,[3] and many states (including also eg Indonesia, India and Vietnam) are still offering ISDS in IIAs despite experiencing some inbound claims.


[1] The transcript of this Evidence is at ‘Second Protocol to Amend the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (ANAZFTA) Public Hearings’, Parliament of Australia (Transcript) <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/AANZFTASecondProtocol/Public_Hearings> and the video-recording is at https://www.aph.gov.au/News_and_Events/Watch_Read_Listen/ParlView/video/2299575.

[2] Open Letter on ISDS (May 2024) <https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSddWDUB2NzZAHYlGJDOxg0DiA-JySOGEE7f_09ZdwQNhryr3g/viewform>.

[3] ‘World Investment Report 2023’, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (Report) <https://unctad.org/publication/world-investment-report-2023>.

When JSCOT’s Report 215 was issued, contrary to my expectation and curiously as this departs from her party’s past practice where a treaty includes ISDS, the Greens Senator for Western Australia Dorinda Cox did not issue a dissenting report – nor even seemingly attend either parliamentary hearing. The Report’s summary emphasised that:[1]

“Notably, Australia successfully negotiated a review of the existing ISDS provisions in [… marking] an instalment of the Government’s commitment to review ISDS provisions in agreements where they already exist, while ensuring Australia does not agree to ISDS mechanisms in new agreements.”

The Report’s Conclusions added (after noting my call for transparency around this ongoing Work Program):[2]

“Considering the significant interest in this issue demonstrated by a range of stakeholders in this and previous JSCOT inquiries, the Committee will seek an update on the progress of the ISDS review work program commitment in due course, and in any case would expect the Department [of Foreign Affairs and Trade: DFAT] to draw any notable developments to the Committee’s attention.”

The Report also quoted evidence given by DFAT that it “will obviously be coming to government to seek a mandate for the positions that we take into that review’ of ISDS under the Work Program”.[3]

Interestingly, the Report did not specifically mention the Zeph claims, although it stated:[4]

“At the public hearing submitters to the inquiry pointed out that there are currently ISDS actions afoot, some of which involve arrangements between Australia and ASEAN nations. The Committee inquired as to the cost of these legal actions to the Australian taxpayer. The Attorney-General’s Department (AGD) said ‘the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister have instructed us to vigorously defend those matters and we are in the process of doing so, and that does accrue cost.

In addition, after recording the opposition to ISDS and hence treaty ratification from the ACTU and AFTINET, the Report noted my concerns about relying solely on more politicised inter-state dispute settlement or arbitration agreed under individual investment contracts, before observing:[5]

The Committee sought clarification as to the recent trend away from ISDS. Professor Nottage said, ‘I think that’s a good thing—that we try something; it has an effect; we realise some of its problems, so we try to fix the problems […] and come up with a new compromise solution’.

My quoted statement in fact followed more specifically from my observation about the question of a ‘retreat from the high water mark of pro-ISDS approaches’.[6] The Committee also did not go on to mention my point immediately following in evidence that the EU has not abandoned direct claims by foreign investors altogether, but come up instead with the investment court compromise. I had suggested that this model could be considered by Australia (and regional states) in future treaty practice even when not negotiating with the EU, for example in the ongoing review of ISDS under AANZFTA’s Second Protocol and RCEP. (Subsequently I developed this proposal in a letter dated 10 April to the Trade Ministers of Australia and New Zealand.)

Furthermore, the Report did not mention my written Submission urging again specific improvements, including restrictions on ‘double-hatting’ and compulsory mediation before arbitration.[7] Overall, therefore, it seems that parliamentary interest and scrutiny around the specifics of ISDS or possible alternatives remains quite limited, deferring largely to the executive branch of government.


[1] Report 215: AANZFTA Second Protocol, available at Parliament of Australia <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/AANZFTASecondProtocol/Report>, xv.

[2] ibid, para 2.95 (and 2.79).

[3] Ibid, para 2.74.

[4] Ibid, para 2.75. This level of generality may reflect a compromise reached between the Labor and Greens members (who might have preferred to mention Zeph and Clive Palmer specifically) and the Coalition members in drafting the joint Report.

[5] Ibid, para 2.80.

[6] Idem.

[7] Available at Parliament of Australia, <https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/AANZFTASecondProtocol/Submissions>.

Compromise way forward on investment treaty/FTA (re)negotiations

[On 10 April 2024, following my submission and then oral evidence given to the Australian parliament inquiring into the AANZFTA Second Protocol ratification, I wrote as follows to the respective Trade Ministers of Australia (Hon Don Farrell) and New Zealand (Hon Todd McClay). The latter’s response dated 29 April, quite non-committal, is below and here. I also had (confidential) discussions with DFAT officials on 23 May 2024 regarding my proposal.]

I am a New Zealander working in Australia since 2001, specialising in international business law including international and domestic investment law and dispute resolution.[1] I have provided many submissions to Australian parliamentary inquiries into ratifications of bilateral investment treaties or investment chapters of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including giving related evidence on 28 March 2024 urging ratification of the Second Protocol to the (ASEAN+2) AANZFTA.[2] Representatives from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and AFTINET (Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network) opposed ratification of the Protocol especially as it retained investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions, albeit to be revisited in a Work Program. The latter will run largely in parallel to negotiations to consider instead adding ISDS to the ASEAN+5 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which FTA also involves Australia and New Zealand.

Australia’s Labor Government from November 2022 has reverted to its stance, when in power over 2011-13, to opposing ISDS in new treaties, but seemingly does not extend this position to protocols to existing treaties like AANZFTA. The Labor Government also will approach counterparty states to review past treaties. Until losing the general election in October 2023, New Zealand’s Labor Government from 2018 had similarly opposed ISDS in new treaties. However, the new Coalition Government may revert to a more flexible approach towards ISDS provisions.

As a compromise way forward for both countries, with significantly shared economic and geopolitical interests, I proposed in the AANZFTA parliamentary inquiry that in that FTA’s Work Program as well as the parallel RCEP (re)negotiations concerning ISDS, serious consideration be given to substituting an EU-style “permanent investment court” hybrid form of dispute resolution to underpin the substantive commitments (like non-discrimination and fair and equitable treatment) offered in such treaties. Unlike ISDS, the foreign investor complainant does not nominate an arbitrator. Instead, the investor’s home state and the host state counterparty select in advance a panel of “judges”, who are then selected to decide the claim (albeit following arbitration rules and issuing awards). The model also provides for a second-tier review, by other adjudicators selected from the panel, for any serious error of law or fact. Such features make this investment court model sufficiently different from ISDS, in my view, to not conflict with the anti-ISDS policy of the current Australia’s Labor Government or the previous New Zealand Labour Government. Yet it still allows for foreign investors to initiate a claim, without having to lobby its home state to press for initiation of an inter-state arbitration. The latter mechanism is also provided in investment treaties, but is rarely used where the more direct ISDS route is available and is much more subject to (geo-)political vagaries – as we observe also with WTO inter-state adjudication.

Further, this compromise investment court model was developed in the EU almost a decade ago after extensive consultation with legal experts and other stakeholders there, and it has since been accepted in FTAs notably concluded by Canada, Singapore and Vietnam.[3] The model is also promoted by the EU in ongoing UN deliberations on reforming ISDS multilaterally. It is in the EU’s negotiating mandate for the FTA being negotiated with Australia, and if it is not accepted then that FTA unfortunately will not include provisions on investment protection (only instead on preferential market access for agreed investments, underpinned solely by inter-state arbitration). That was also the outcome in the FTA between the EU and Japan, which preferred to retain instead ISDS-backed protections for its investors into many individual EU states under older treaties. The New Zealand-EU FTA similarly does not include any provisions on investment protection, yet New Zealand’s outbound investors lack such BITs with individual EU member states. New Zealand’s new Coalition Government might now consider adding a protocol on investment protection, agreeing after all with the EU’s court mechanism, to encourage more cross-border investment flows.

Greater consideration by both New Zealand and Australia to the investment court model would also be useful as each continues to negotiate FTAs with the other non-EU counterparties, including across Asia (such as the Australia-India negotiations to conclude a treaty going beyond trade in goods). It would also open up space for greater bipartisanship with each country and therefore speed up FTA negotiations.

In fact, in late 2017 I wrote to your respective predecessors as Trade Minister with Dr Amokura Kawharu (then a professor at University of Auckland, now President of the New Zealand Law Commission). Drawing on recent research (which I have updated[4]), we urged even then Australia and New Zealand to consider the EU-style investment court model and coordinate more in progressing investment treaty negotiations, including for RCEP.[5] That FTA could then have been more easily and quickly agreed upon, and indeed included India which in 2019 withdrew from negotiations. Closer joint consideration of the investment court model deserves renewed attention from both Australian and New Zealand governments, as they look to (re)negotiate various investment treaties, including still AANZFTA. The investment court model may not be perfect but nothing ever is, and it promises a better way forward than the current flip-flops in each country around traditional ISDS.

I would be happy to confer with you or relevant staff to discuss this further, or provide additional information.

Yours sincerely

Luke R Nottage


[1] Profile and CV at https://www.sydney.edu.au/law/about/our-people/academic-staff/luke-nottage.html. My father (Richard Nottage) was former Secretary of Foreign Affairs in New Zealand and my brother (Hunter) was later Senior Trade Law Advisor with MFAT.

[2] See transcript and Submission via https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/Joint/Treaties/AANZFTASecondProtocol

[3] For details see eg Moritz Keller (ed) EU Investment Protection Law: Article-by-Article Commentary (Beck/Hart, 2023).

[4] See eg, on the evolving studies on the impact of ISDS provisions on cross-border FDI, my submission in 2020 to DFAT’s review of Australia’s bilateral investment treaties (available at https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade-and-investment/discussion-paper-review-australias-bilateral-investment-treaties), summarised eg in my chapter “Rebalancing Investment Treaties and Arbitration in the Asian Region”, in Mahdev Mohan and Chester Brown (eds) The Asian Turn in International Investment(Cambridge University Press, 2021) 379-398.

[5] Our 2017 letters can be found at https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/2017KawharuNottageTurnbullGovt_Combined_LN01.pdf, via https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/2017/11/nz-renounces-isds-deja-vu/

Australia’s Anti-ISDS Approach Again: AANZFTA Protocol Ratification Hearing in Parliament

On 21 August 2023 Australia signed, with New Zealand and the ten member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Second Protocol to Amend the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), after announcing in November 2022 substantial conclusion of the free trade agreement (FTA) review that had commenced in September 2018. This amended treaty added new chapters and updated many others, whereas the first Protocol in 2015 focused on streamlining certification for cross-border movement of goods.

For example, as I noted in my written Submission in January 2024 to the Australian Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Treaties (JSCOT) inquiry into ratifying the Second Protocol, it added more provisions on consumer protection generally (in Article 7 of Chapter 17, but setting narrow minimum standards for national laws and not subject even to the inter-state dispute settlement Chapter that could help give those commitments more bite, compared to the Australia-UK FTA signed in 2021) and for e-commerce (Article 18 of Chapter 10, underpinned by inter-state dispute settlement – unlike the ASEAN+5 Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP signed in 2020).

However, my Submission and others focused mainly on the Second Protocol’s update to Chapter 11 on Investment. The substantive commitments (in Section A, Arts 1-18) were adjusted largely in line with RCEP’s Investment Chapter, but the main controversy concerned Section B’s retention of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) option allowing arbitration as with the original AANZFTA (in forced from 2010). A week before the Second Protocol was substantially agreed, Australia’s Labor Government had declared on 14 November 2022 that it would not agree to ISDS protections for foreign investors in any future treaties, and would seek to review and remove them in past investment treaties. The New Zealand government had also announced in late 2017 that it would not agree to ISDS in future treaties, mimicking the stance of an earlier Labor (with Greens) Government when in power in Australia over 2011-2013.

Compromises were made when retaining ISDS in the Second Protocol’s Investment Chapter. The parties will first suspend application of the National Treatment commitment (not to discriminate against foreign investors compared to local investors, subject to scheduled country-specific exceptions) for breaches arising within 30 months of the upgrade. This is quite significant as the Second Protocol enlivens a previously inactive (Article 3) obligation for National Treatment. The second compromise is Article 17, providing for a work program to review Section B on ISDS no later than 18 months after the date of entry into force of the Second Protocol, to be concluded within 12 months unless extended by the states party – so probably by the end of 2027. (The program also requires discussion about adding two extra prohibitions of performance requirements in Article 6.1.) Given the Australian Labor Government’s opposition to ISDS, it can be expected to press for the removal or otherwise significant curtailing of Section B on ISDS. However, it faces a general election by May 2025, and if it loses to the Coalition the latter will reinstate a more flexible approach – agreeing to ISDS on a treaty-by-treaty assessment of Australia’s national interests. New Zealand’s Labor Government also lost the general election in October 2023, and its new Coalition Government is also likely to be quite sanguine about retaining ISDS.

In parallel, RCEP’s investment chapter had instead omitted ISDS but Article 10.18 established a work program to reconsider whether or not and how to add ISDS. This negotiation was to be started within two years of this ASEAN+5 treaty coming into force (January 2022 for ten states), to be concluded then within three years – so by the end of 2025. The largest non-ASEAN member states of RCEP with large outbound investments such as Japan, Korea and even China, may press for adding ISDS. However, their outbound investors mostly have anyway at least one other ISDS-backed treaty to invoke even without RCEP (eg Japan and Australia have the CPTPP, even though ISDS was omitted also from their 2014 bilateral FTA).

My Submission, and oral evidence given (with video-recording here) in favour of ratifying the Second Protocol (contrasting with the evidence and submissions opposing ratification from the Australian Council of Trade Unions and AFTINET), identified likely net benefits from ISDS-backed treaties including this one but also options for further drafting improvements, drawing partly on my submission to the 2020 DFAT review of Australia’s standalone bilateral investment treaties. I also urged ongoing transparency and stakeholder involvement in the envisaged work program.

We can expect most JSCOT members to recommend that Australia ratifies the Second Protocol. After all, JSCOT always has a majority of Government parliamentarians on the Committee, and its own minister has already signed the Protocol (after review by Cabinet colleagues). In addition, the Coalition parliamentarians in opposition have always maintained a flexible approach towards ISDS provisions. The solitary Australian Greens member, however, seems likely to recommend against ratification, as its parliamentarians have done on committees considering treaties that contain ISDS provisions. What will be more interesting is what the Labor members say about ISDS, including the evidence given, and what that might imply for Australia’s ongoing negotiations regarding investment agreements with India and the European Union.

Vote of thanks for Chief Justice Bell’s launch of “Comparing Online Legal Education” (& Foreword by James Douglas KC)

[From book launch on 3 August 2023]

I am very grateful for NSW Chief Justice Andrew Bell [pictured, above on left] for taking time from his busy schedule to launch this book [video-recording here or via the Sydney Law School podcasts on Youtube]. Perhaps I should have asked instead for such a favour for my next volume just into press, on Corruption and Asian Investment Arbitration, given His Honour’s longstanding shared interest in cross-border dispute resolution. But the Chief Justice also was a valued lecturer for Sydney Law School over many years, and I was struck by the remarks made about online legal education in another book launch following the annual Winterton lecture in the Banco Court a few months ago. Thank you very much for sharing some further ideas and kind words, reminding us of the history of technological developments in the research and teaching of law over our lifetimes, in the context of this volume.

I also acknowledge the Foreword [reproduced below] kindly contributed by former Queensland Supreme Court Justice James Douglas, here today [pictured, 2nd from right] and a longstanding elected member of the International Academy of Comparative Law. I also appreciate that Academy and then Secretary-General Prof Diego Fernández Arroyo for inviting me in early 2020 to become the General Reporter comparing developments world-wide related to online legal education. That became of course a very hot topic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which unfortunately meant not all nominated national reporters ended up producing chapters for this book. But I think it nonetheless achieved a fairly representative mix of jurisdictions to draw wider comparative conclusions – jurisdictions from common law, civil law and mixed traditions, more or less democratic states, large and small states, developed and developing economies.

I thank all the contributors to this book, especially my co-editor Seijo University Prof Makoto Ibusuki, ANJeL-in-Japan program convenor and frequent visitor to Australia (and many parts of the world). I particularly valued some early zoom discussions over 2020, comparing different challenges and reactions in Australia and Japan. We and this book also benefited from an excellent chapter co-authored by ANJeL Advisor and Newcastle DVC, Prof Kent Anderson here tonight, comparing different “gatekeepers” across jurisdictions that regulate entry to the legal profession: lawyers, governments, universities and the market. The book’s summary general report plus the jurisdictional reports consider how each model, along with other factors such as ICT infrastructure and funding for universities as well as the extent of COVID-19 impact, can influence the trajectories of in-person and then online legal education.

I thank also Rebecca Moffat and the very professional team at Intersentia, which has become the publisher for the book series from the Academy’s four-yearly major comparative law congresses. (I only hope they bring down the price for the e-book version.) I am especially grateful to Intersentia and the Academy for adapting for the book cover an abstract artwork provided by my daughter Erica Kobayashi Nottage of Enso Circulation, finishing off at the National Art School this year, and for the rest of my immediate family for joining us for the book launch.

For hosting tonight, I thank Dean Simon Bronitt [pictured in photo above, right] and Sydney Law School (including its Centre for Asian and Pacific Law, the cross-institutional Australian Network for Japanese Law, and Carla and Ashleigh from our terrific Events Team). Further editorial and research assistance for the book was kindly provided through the University of Wollongong’s Transnational Law and Policy Centre, where I enjoy an honorary affiliation. I am also glad for the support of Assoc Prof Markus Wagner, leading that Centre, and his Dean Trish Mundy kindly co-authored an insightful chapter on online legal education in Australia.

Thank you again for the insightful remarks on launching this book, Chief Justice, and for all my colleagues, family, friends and others who attended to support this event.

***

Book’s Foreword, by the Hon James Douglas KC:

A long time ago I experienced the mixed joys of both undergraduate and postgraduate law lectures and tutorials delivered directly in the classroom among fellow students. In my final undergraduate year in 1973, however, I studied part-time entirely remotely by reading lecture notes with references to the relevant texts and cases. Luckily, I had access to an excellent law library and was the associate of a judge in a final appellate court where there were other such judges with associates who were recent graduates. I could bounce ideas off them and learn from the cases argued before the court. I hate to think what that experience of remote learning would have been like had I not had that environment around me. I admire greatly those lawyers who have successfully educated themselves solely through distance or online education. 

I recognise the advantages that modern technology can provide to remote learning not only through video-conferencing of lectures and tutorials but by direct access to relevant primary materials online. That early experience, however, has biased me in favour of live teaching in a class full of students actually present. As the authors recognise in their introduction, even interactive video-conferencing makes it more difficult for remote students ‘to engage in classroom discussions … where picking up on nuances can be harder than in physical interactions, even for native speakers’. Common experience of video-conferencing outside the academic environment backs up those conclusions. 

There is so much to be learned also in informal discussion with lecturers and other students and from an environment where the social interaction and physical facilities are focused on what you are studying. As the authors say about the experience of online education in Macao, ‘law is rooted in human interactions, benefiting not only from direct student–teacher contact but also from student learning among peers, through classroom teaching but also other personal contacts on campus’. This personal contact is recognised as a continuing advantage particularly in aspects of courses where students need to learn practical or ‘soft’ skills.

The period leading up to the International Academy of Comparative Law’s 2022 Congress in Paraguay coincided with the spread of the COVID-19 virus and the curtailment of normal legal education in very many jurisdictions. So the decision to examine the topic of online legal education at the Congress proved to be very ‘timely’, as Professors Nottage and Ibusuki say in their General Report. Suddenly online legal education had become frighteningly necessary and common. It can also provide access to courses otherwise practically too expensive or unavailable to less privileged students. What, therefore, may be the consequences of greater use of online legal education for the future of the profession and the teaching of law around the world?

This useful volume examines those issues relevant to online legal education in 13 jurisdictions representative of the major common law and civilian traditions as well as some hybrid jurisdictions. It makes some tentative predictions for the future of such education. The examples also carry the advantage of having been drawn from countries with widely varying economies, unequal access to technology for online teaching and differing traditions in the teaching of law. 

The authors link legal education to the legal profession and main legal traditions of each jurisdiction covered, and include pre- and post-admission education for law graduates. The focus is mostly on university-level legal education but practical professional training in some jurisdictions is also addressed. Online education for such practical training can be more effective than may be the case for young undergraduates. It is also notable that the topic shows the typical tensions between continuity and change often found in comparative studies. 

Some of the main general conclusions reached are that developments in online legal education in the 13 jurisdictions examined should be influenced by the nature of the jurisdiction’s legal tradition and legal profession, its level of public funding for universities, its level of economic development, including its infrastructure for information and communications technology, and the particular impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The work as a whole will be especially useful for those considering how to deploy online legal education in a particular jurisdiction, using that analysis, with a view to setting up a properly nuanced regime for that style of education for that jurisdiction. 

Those charged with these significant responsibilities in jurisdictions and universities around the world will derive great benefit from studying the insights contained in this volume. 

Japan’s International Investment, Evolving Treaty Practice and Arbitration Related to Corruption and Illegality

Written by: Luke Nottage and Nobumichi Teramura#

Abstract: This article forthcoming in 55 Journal of Japanese Law (mid-2023), part of an interdisciplinary book project on Corruption, Illegality and Asian Investment Arbitration [including a conference held in Brunei on 29 May 2023 (booklet here) supported by ANJeL and CAPLUS], addresses for Japan the difficult practical and policy question facing arbitration tribunals when a foreign investor claims mistreatment by a host state but the latter alleges that the investment was tainted by corruption or other similar serious illegality. By way of background, Japan emerged from the 1980s as a leading exporter of foreign direct investment (FDI). Yet it has low inbound FDI despite some significant growth since the late 1990s (Part II). This is despite Japan having comparatively very little corruption, which is often problematic for foreign investors (Part III).

To protect and promote outbound FDI after a hesitant start, over the last two decades, Japan has accelerated ratifications of standalone bilateral investment treaties (BITs) as well as investment chapters in free trade agreements (FTAs). Almost all allow foreign investors from the home state to directly initiate investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) arbitration against host states to get relief from violations of substantive treaty commitments, such as non-discrimination or compensation for expropriation (Part IV.1).

Japan’s investment treaty practice on corruption and illegality is comparatively interesting for two reasons (Part IV.2). First, from around 2007, its treaties have often required host states to take measures against corruption. This should help Japan’s outbound investors, but these obligations are generally weakly phrased. Secondly, Japan’s treaties have been less consistent in expressly limiting their protections to foreign investments made in accordance with host state laws (including against corruption). This may be due to treaty drafters from Japan and counterparty states being less aware of the significance of such express legality provisions, which will often lead tribunals to decline jurisdiction if corruption is established, thus leaving foreign investors without treaty protections. Such outcomes may also incentivise host states to ensure a bribe is taken, to use as a treaty defence if foreign investors ever launch treaty claims, whereas other outcomes for tribunals are possible if there is no express legality provision. Another possibility is that this drafting is deliberate, again to benefit Japanese outbound investors as claimants because the absence of a legality provision renders more difficult defences from host states, which typically have more corruption than in Japan.

Japan may adopt more and clearer legality provisions if it becomes subject to more inbound ISDS arbitration claims, and/or if claims by Japanese outbound investors are mostly against well-governed host states with little scope for corruption. Yet both types of claims remain few (Part V). The shift may therefore come more from other counterparty states pushing for such legality provisions and Japan agreeing in its future treaties to demonstrate its overall commitment to combatting corruption, and to preserve the legitimacy of the ISDS arbitration system (Part VI).


# Respectively: Professor, University of Sydney Law School; Assistant Professor, Institute of Asian Studies, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Australia’s (Dis)Engagement with Investor-State Arbitration: A Sequel

A seminar held on 10 November 2022 during the Australian Arbitration Week, organised by the UNCITRAL National Coordination Committee for Australia (UNCCA) and hosted by Allens in Melbourne, discussed “Australia’s engagement in the ISDS [investor-state dispute settlement] reform process”. My presentation divided successive governments’ approach into three significant eras over the last decade or so: anti-ISDS (2011-13), case-by-case ISDS (2014-21), and uncertainty (2022-).

Some of the uncertainty in this current third era has dissipated since the seminar. On 14 November Australia’s current Trade Minister Dan Farrell declared that the new Labor Government “will not include ISDS in any new trade agreements” and would attempt to reduce their impact in existing agreements. On the latter point, he stated that “when opportunities arise, we will actively engage in processes to reform existing ISDS mechanisms to enhance transparency, consistency and ensure adequate scope to allow the Government to regulate in the public interest”. The announcement has already generated concern from commentators from the Business Council of Australia and legal practice, including Dr Sam Luttrell (who also presented at the UNCCA seminar). Below I locate the Trade Minister’s announcement in context and sketch some implications, drawing partly on my 2021 book of selected essays on investor-state and commercial arbitration, focusing on Australia and Japan in regional and global contexts. 

Before this sequel, in the first era beginning in 2011, the centre-left (Labor/Greens) Gillard Government had declared that Australia would no longer agree to any form of ISDS in future bilateral investment treaties (BITs) or FTA investment chapters. That stance derived partly from the Productivity Commission’s recommendation (by majority) in its 2010 report into international trade policy more generally, which favoured more unilateral liberalisation measures and was skeptical about proliferating FTAs from a more laissez faire perspective. On ISDS provisions, the draft and then final reports asserted that there was no good evidence that offering them led to more FDI flows, Australian investors did not invoke investor-state arbitration, and ISDS could lead to “regulatory chill”. Additionally, the Gillard Government anti-ISDS policy from 2011 was driven by concerns from the political left about investment and trade liberalisation generally. It was probably also influenced by Philip Morris Asia initiating the first-ever ISDS dispute against Australia around this time, challenging Australia’s tobacco plain packaging legislation under the (then) BIT with Hong Kong. The anti-ISDS policy delayed conclusion of major FTAs with China, Korea and Japan, large exporters of capital to Australia which pressed for such provisions.

However, after the centre-right Coalition government won the election in late 2013, it reverted to the pre-2011 approach of agreeing to ISDS provisions on a case-by-case assessment. FTAs were soon concluded with China and Korea, including ISDS. The FTA concluded with Japan did omit ISDS, but probably because it did not offer Australia sufficient extra export market access or other benefits, at a time when the Coalition Government had difficulties passing legislation through the upper house of Parliament. Japan’s longer positive experience of investing in Australia also meant it could play the long game and seek ISDS-backed protections through other treaties, which it eventually achieved in fact through both countries ratifying the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership mega-regional FTA (CPTPP, in force for both states from 2019). The Labor Opposition voted with the Government to pass tariff-reduction legislation needed to ratify these ISDS-backed treaties, unlike the Greens, declaring the Labor Party’s continued opposition to ISDS but assessing the FTAs as overall in the national interest.

Additionally over this second era, the Coalition Government omitted ISDS in the PACER-Plus FTA with Pacific Island micro-states, given their limited inbound investment prospects and capacity as host states to defend ISDS claims; and in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ASEAN+5 FTA, probably because almost all pairs of its 15 member states have at least one ISDS-backed treaty among themselves anyway. The Coalition Government also renegotiated a few early FTAs and BITs (eg with Singapore, Uruguay and Hong Kong), replacing them with CPTPP-like provisions to clarify provisions or make them somewhat more pro-host-state in light of emerging investment treaty case law. It also solicited public submissions to inform a review of older treaties, although the Government did not then publish a report (let alone any Model BIT) formalising its evolving negotiating preferences. Australia further ratified the Mauritius Convention in 2020 to help retrofit transparency provisions on older treaties, although this will bite primarily only if other states also ratify the Convention and so far few have done so.

Australia’s renewed nuanced approach towards ISDS over 2014-21 may have been influenced by some (but not very strong) evidence, in Asia and more widely, that ISDS provisions do in fact have significant positive impacts on FDI flows. Also, ratifying investment treaties globally certainly impacted FDI, meaning that a minority of states increasingly holding out against all ISDS would have instead reduced ratifications and therefore FDI flows. Other empirical research, highlighted by Dr Sam Luttrell at the recent UNCCA seminar, adds that ISDS-backed treaties reduce the cost of syndicated loan finance for cross-border investors.

Luttrell’s presentation further reinforced how Australian investors (particularly in long-term resources projects) not only take into account ISDS protections but also started commencing outbound investor-state arbitrations under Australian treaties (or contracts) alleging host states have violated their substantive commitments. This is especially so since the successful White Industries v India award in 2010, which the Productivity Commission seems to have been been unaware of. Concerns about “regulatory chill” also seem to have declined as Australia defeated Philip Morris Asia on jurisdiction in 2015 (and Uruguay later defeated the parent company on the merits regarding its own tobacco packaging measures), and as no further inbound ISDS arbitrations were commenced against Australia. Nonetheless, perhaps because ISDS remained a live issue in parliamentary treaty ratification hearings and successive Coalition Governments did not control the upper House, Australia does not seem to have been particularly vocal in multilateral ISDS reform discussions in UNCITRAL or ICSID, although it has participated.

After Labor won the general election in May 2022, the new Government had not publically declared its policy approach towards ISDS, until the Trade Minister’s announcement on 14 November. At the UNCCA seminar the week before, I noted that the foreign ministry’s website still stated that Australia assesses ISDS on a case-by-case assessment. However, setting policy going into the election, the Labor Party’s 2021 National Platform had reiterated that “Labor will not enter into agreements that include ISDS provisions” (p9 para 45). In addition, it stated (p94, paras 33-34):


“Labor in government will review ISDS provisions in existing trade and investment agreements and seek to work with Australia’s trading partners to remove these provisions. While this process is underway, Labor will work with the international community to reform ISDS tribunals so they remove perceived conflicts of interest by temporary appointed judges, adhere to precedents and include appeal mechanisms.

Labor will set up a full time negotiating team within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade whose sole job will be to negotiate the removal of ISDS clauses …”

Until 14 November 2022, there had been no public announcement about any such initiatives.

* * *

Accordingly, at the UNCCA seminar, I pointed out that Australia’s major ongoing FTA negotiations involving investment were with India (with a provisional agreement reached only on trade related matters) and the European Union. India unilaterally terminated its BIT with Australia in 2017, as part of its broader policy of winding back protections for foreign investors since the White Industries award and successive claims against India under other older treaties. Although India’s new Model BIT from 2016 retains ISDS, it provides a narrow window and its substantive protections are heavily circumscribed, and India has been able to only conclude a few new investment treaties from this negotiating position. Even maintaining the second era’s case-by-case assessment policy, I therefore considered it quite possible that Australia and India could end up agreeing on a parallel investment treaty that leaves only inter-state arbitration, especially if India offered significant preferential market access to Australian investors.

Omitting ISDS is now the only possibility, under the newly announced Labor Government stance, but India now may not offer as much market access or other benefits to Australia. A better compromise, given problems encountered by foreign investors in India as well as JNU Prof Jaivir Singh’s empirical evidence that ISDS-backed treaties cumulatively have had positive impact on FDI inflows for India, could have been a CPTPP-like investment treaty with some further innovations. Those might include a mandatory mediation step before arbitration, as Australia agreed upon (unusually) with Indonesia in 2019 but not with Hong Kong.

Australia is also still negotiating an FTA with the EU. Since 2015, as a partly political compromise internally, the EU offers only an “investment court” alternative to traditional ISDS, on a take it or leave it basis. Singapore took this option, for example, but Japan did not (preferring to stick with pre-existing BIT with EU member states with traditional ISDS, and watching longer term multilateral reform discussions). Australia should probably take the investment court option, to secure an overall better FTA deal, as I have argued (with Prof Amokura Kawharu) also for New Zealand after it too from 2018 mimicked Australia’s first anti-ISDS policy. Arguably, this option is not “ISDS” so it would not conflict with the Labor Party’s 2021 platform and now the 14 November 2022 Labor Government’s anti-ISDS position. Although the EU’s investment court model allows foreign investors the right to directly commence arbitration, they cannot nominate arbitrators; they instead are pre-selected only by the home and host states, and then randomly assigned to hear the claim (and any appeal). If Australia adopts this interpretation of its stance eschewing ISDS, to conclude a deal with the EU, this would also signal to other regional players and UNCITRAL delegates that there is scope to be flexible in investment treaty negotiations.

However, one wild card for Australia has been that a right-wing politician and mining magnate (Clive Palmer) escalated complaints in 2020 by formally seeking consultations with the federal Government and then notifying a dispute through his Singaporean company (Zeph), after unsuccessful constitutional and other domestic law challenges. They allege expropriation and breach of fair and equitable treaty (denial of justice) related to Western Australian state legislation impacting on iron ore rights and related past domestic arbitration awards. Given his high public profile, and rights originally held by his Australian company being transferred to Zeph in Singapore, if and when an ISDS arbitration is commenced (potentially from early 2023) under one of Singapore’s multiple treaties with Australia, this risks another Philip Morris Asia moment. An arbitration filing would certainly rekindle media and political interest in ISDS, which peaked in Australia over 2010-16.

In addition, concerns were reportedly being raised last week about potential ISDS claims brought by Asian and other investors and in Australian gas resources under the Labor Government’s plans to deal with the global energy crisis. Announcing now a renewed anti-ISDS policy may help pre-empt public criticisms in this respect as well. However, any such claims would be preserved under existing treaties, while substantive commitments made under Australia’s treaties (especially FTAs) anyway give the host state considerable scope to introduce emergency measures.

Whatever the impact of these potential claims on its policy-makers, Australia’s renewed anti-ISDS posture will make it even more difficult for RCEP to add ISDS protections, unless the Labor Government backtracks or loses the next elections in 2025. ISDS must be discussed again among member states within 2 years of RCEP coming into force, with a decision then on whether and how to add ISDS to be reached within another 3 years (Art 10.18). Any implications for Australia’s recently concluded review of its FTA with New Zealand and Australia have yet to be spelled out. In addition, the new Labor Government policy will probably have further ripple-on effects particularly across the Asia-Pacific region. It could also potentially impact on wider multilateral discussions about ISDS in UNCITRAL, and even on the “modernisation” of or withdrawal from the ISDS-backed Energy Charter Treaty (which Australia signed in 1994 but never ratified), especially if the Australian government can articulate more specifically the arguments and evidence for adopting this renewed anti-ISDS position.

Guest Blog: ‘Exporting Japanese Legal Ideas to the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN’

Written by: Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (for MPI Hamburg Festchrift conference, 1-2 September 2022) [for the full paper, not just Part I below, you may try checking his webpages or contacting him]

[Abstract] Japan has long been a successful importer of western legal systems. The country has also exported its law to the rest of Asia for many years. Japan’s national ODA agency – the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) – has been offering legal technical assistance projects since the 1990s. These initiatives have impacted the development of legal systems in Central and Southeast Asian countries. In particular, the outcome of the projects in the countries along the Mekong River is allegedly outstanding in terms of their comprehensive influence on the private laws of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The projects have arguably helped these host countries establish and reform a significant number of private law frameworks. Nevertheless, the extensive work by Japanese legal experts has been struggling with a low profile and a lack of international recognition, most likely due to a lag in anglophone scholarship that delivers a sufficiently detailed examination of the current private laws of those host countries and their operation in practice. This paper intends to address the gap by providing a critical (albeit preliminary and succinct) evaluation of how Japan’s legal technical assistance has led Japanese legal ideas to form part of the legal pluralism in the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN. It also encourages Japanese and local law experts to undertake further actions to re-assess the influence of Japanese law in these countries.

Part I. Introduction: Exporting Japanese Law to the Rest of Asia

Japan has long been perceived as a successful example of legal transplantation based on western models such as the legal systems of Germany, France and the US.[1] However, Japanese law has rarely treated as a source of legal ideas that are applicable outside Japan.[2] When it comes to Japan as a source of legal influence, commentators tend to focus on the country’s role in disseminating a modern German-style legal system to its neighbouring countries, but not on how Japanese law itself has influenced legal thinking in those countries.[3] Moreover, little attention is paid to how these countries are inspired by specific aspects of Japan’s success in importing western legal concepts because commentators are inclined to attribute the success to the specific institutions, culture and environment of Japan, perceiving Japan’s experience as inapplicable to other countries.[4] Those commentators writing in English appear to confine Japanese law and its legal institutions to Japan’s domestic domain.

However, Japanese law has extended its reach to Southeast Asia, as pointed out by several scholars in the last few decades. For instance, Tamura refers to Dr Tokichi Masao’s significant contribution to the codification of modern civil laws in Thailand during his tenure as the General Legal Adviser to the Kingdom of Siam in the early 20th century.[5] Tamura also reminds us that Thai commissioners adopted the (old) Japanese Civil Code as the foundation for their reception of the German Civil Code into the 1925 Revised Civil and Commercial Code of the Kingdom of Siam.[6] Moreover, Taylor highlights the importance of reviewing Japan’s legal technical assistance since the 1990s in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and beyond, suggesting that it reveals ‘ongoing tension between a western/globalized vision of rule-of-law assistance and the political imperatives at the national/local level’.[7] Along with Taylor’s thesis, this paper advocates for the need to examine the impact of Japanese positive law through the technical assistance in a recent hotspot for the global economy and comparative legal studies – the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN.[8]

These days, countries along the Mekong River, such as Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, have been gaining new economic prominence and increased global attention because of geopolitical tensions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and the US-China trade war.[9] Many multinationals have been relocating their factories from China to those countries in the Mekong Subregion for cost reduction and risk aversion,[10] being attracted to the competitive labour costs, liberal economic policies, trade openness, social stability and growth potential of those countries.[11] Those foreign investors and experts working on the field of international business are so interested in the legal environments of the host states that much has been written about the legal and judicial systems of the countries along the Mekong River.[12]

Japan’s national ODA agency, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA),[13] has since the 1990s been committing to the modernisation of law in the Mekong Subregion (and other countries) through its legal technical assistance projects.[14] Especially, Japanese legal advice provided through the assistance projects have heavily influenced the private laws of Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, according to Japanese commentators[15] and mainstream media.[16] Nevertheless, we can rarely find corresponding observations or relevant discussions in anglophone scholarships or official documents issued by the governments of English speaking countries.[17] Thus, this paper critically and succinctly evaluates how Japanese legal ideas have shaped part of the legal pluralism in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, calling for further research to assess the influence of Japanese private law in these jurisdictions. It also discusses whether and how such research may help Japanese legal studies and local legal practice overcome challenges they have faced.


* Assistant Professor of ASEAN and Asia-Wide Integration, Universiti Brunei Darussalam; Affiliate, Centre for Asian and Pacific Law in the University of Sydney (CAPLUS); ANJeL-in-ASEAN Convenor, Australian Network for Japanese Law. The author acknowledges […]. Note that this paper is based on the following articles written by this author: Nobumichi Teramura, ‘Japan as a Source of Legal Ideas: A View from the Mekong Subregion of ASEAN’ (2021) 13 New Voices in Japanese Studies 19; and Nobumichi Teramura, ‘JICA and Regional Soft Power: Japan’s Legal and Judicial Development Project in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos since 1996’ (2022) IAS Working Paper Series <https://ias.ubd.edu.bn/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/working_paper_series_69.pdf> .

[1] Michele Graziadei, ‘Comparative Law, Transplants, and Receptions’ in Mathias Reimann and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), Comparative Law, Transplants, and Receptions (Oxford University Press 2019) 449; Mathias Siems, ‘The Power of Comparative Law: What Types of Units Can Comparative Law Compare’ (2019) 67 American Journal of Comparative Law 861, 865.

[2] Veronica Taylor, ‘Spectres of Comparison: Japanese Law through Multiple Lenses’ (2001) 6 Journal of Japanese Law 11.

[3] Chen Lei, ‘Contextualising Legal Transplant: China and Hong Kong’ in Pier Giuseppe Monateri (ed), Methods of Comparative Law (Edward Elgar Publishing 2012); Uwe Kischel, Comparative Law (Oxford University Press 2019) 55, 689, 699, 728–35; Graziadei, ‘Comparative Law, Transplants, and Receptions’ 450.

[4] Stephen Givens, ‘The Vagaries of Vagueness: An Essay on “Cultural” vs. “Institutional” Approaches to Japanese Law’ (2013) 22 Michigan State International Law Review 839; Giorgio Fabio Colombo, ‘Japan as a Victim of Comparative Law’ (2014) 22 Michigan State International Law Review 731.

[5] Shiori Tamura, ‘The Role of the Japanese Civil Code in the Codification in the Kingdom of Siam’ in Yuka Kaneko (ed), Civil Law Reforms in Post-Colonial Asia: Beyond Western Capitalism (Springer 2019) 54-55.

[6] Ibid 57ff.

[7] Veronica L Taylor, ‘Rule-of-law Assistance Discourse and Practice: Japanese Inflections’ in Amanda Perry Kessaris (ed), Law in the Pursuit of Development Principles into Practice? (Routledge-Cavendish 2009) 164.

[8] The Mekong Subregion consists of Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Thailand: Shawn Ho and Kaewkamol Pitakdumrongkit, ‘Can ASEAN Play a Greater Role in the Mekong Subregion?’, (The Diplomat, 20 January 2019) <https://thediplomat.com/2019/01/can-asean-play-a-greater-role-in-the-mekong-subregion/>.

[9] Nobumichi Teramura, Shahla F Ali and Anselmo Reyes, ‘Expanding Asia-Pacific Frontiers for International Dispute Resolution: Conclusions and Recommendations’ in Luke Nottage and others (eds), New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution (Wolters Kluwer 2021) 356.

[10] John Boudreau and Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen, ‘Rural Vietnam Booms With Jobs From Apple-Led Move in Supply Chains’, (Bloomberg, 26 October 2020) <https://www.bloomberg.com/news/newsletters/2020-10-26/supply-chains-latest-apple-shift-means-boom-in-rural-vietnam>; John Reed, ‘Vietnam Prepares for Supply Chain Shift from China’, (Financial Times, 28 December 2020) <https://www.ft.com/content/e855b706-e431-4fc5-9b0a-05d93ba1bcbe>

[11] See, eg, Swiss Re Institute, ‘De-risking Global Supply Chains: Rebalancing to Strengthen Resilience’ (2020) <https://www.swissre.com/institute/research/sigma-research/sigma-2020-06.html> ; OECD, ‘Trends in Foreign Investment and Trade in Lao PDR’ in OECD (ed), OECD Investment Policy Reviews: Lao PDR (OECD Publishing 2017).

[12] See generally The MLS Academic Research Service, ‘Southeast Asian Region Countries’ Law’ (Melbourne Law School, 2022)  <https://unimelb.libguides.com/asianlaw> accessed 29 June 2022.

[13] JICA is an independent administrative institution under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) of Japan.

[14] Luke Nottage, ‘The Development of Comparative Law in Japan’ in Mathias Reimann and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (2nd edn, Oxford University Press 2019) 204-207; Zentaro Kitagawa, ‘Development of Comparative Law in East Asia’ in Mathias Reimann and Reinhard Zimmermann (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Comparative Law (Oxford University Press 2006) 254-256; MOJ, ‘Legal Technical Assistance Activities by the International Cooperation Department ~Contributing to the World Is Japan’s Strength!~’ (n.d.)  <https://www.moj.go.jp/EN/housouken/houso_lta_lta.html> accessed 29 June 2022.

[15] Yuka Kaneko, ‘Japan’s Civil Code Drafting Support for Socialist Reform Countries: Diversity of Normative Choice’ in Yuka Kaneko (ed), Civil Law Reforms in Post-Colonial Asia: Beyond Western Capitalism (Springer 2019) 155.

[16] Shuichiro Sese, ‘Japan’s Judicial Diplomacy at Crossroads as Laos Enacts Civil Code’, (Nikkei Asia, 21 May 2020) <https://asia.nikkei.com/Politics/International-relations/Japan-s-judicial-diplomacy-at-crossroads-as-Laos-enacts-civil-code> (noting that ‘Laos became the third country in Southeast Asia, after Vietnam and Cambodia, to introduce a civil code with Japanese support’).

[17] See Section 4 below.

“Declining Professional Diversity in International Arbitration”

By: Dr Nobumichi Teramura (Assistant Professor, Universiti Brunei Darussalam; Affiliate, Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney), Dr Luke Nottage (Professor of Law, University of Sydney; Special Counsel, Williams Trade Law) and Mr James Tanna (Research Assistant, University of Sydney)[1]

[Update: a version of this posting was published by Kluwer Arbitration Blog on 3 April 2022, associated presentations were then made eg at the ASLI conference in Tokyo and Lawasia conference in Sydney in 2022, and our chapter on which it is based has now been published in Shahla Ali et al (eds) Diversity in International Arbitration (Elgar, 2022)]

On 20 June 2016, the Australian Centre for International Arbitration (ACICA) signed the Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge, to improve the profile and representation of women in arbitration.[2] Since then, we have witnessed the international arbitration (IA) community’s significant collective progress towards greater diversity, especially over the last few years. These initiatives include Racial Equality for Arbitration Lawyers (REAL), the Rising Arbitrators Initiative (RAI) and the appointment of first woman President of the ICC International Court of Arbitration. We should certainly celebrate this advancement of equality in race, age and gender, although the main beneficiaries of the diminishing gender gap are reportedly white women based in Europe or North America.[3]

In addition, we should be aware that the burgeoning debate seems to leave out discussion of a further area where diversity is lacking in the IA community – an analysis of professional diversity. While the key groups and publication outlets for IA are dominated nowadays by those practising primarily as full-time lawyers, there is hardly any awareness or sustained discussion about the limitations of overlooking diversity of professional backgrounds, perhaps partly because arbitration rules usually do not require arbitrators to have any specific experience, training or qualifications. Nonetheless, for example, the ACICA Guidance Note on the Appointment of Arbitrators prompts parties to consider ‘diversity and issues of equal representation, such as gender, age, geography, culture, ethnicity, and professional background of the arbitrator’.[4]

Involving more non-lawyer practitioners (NLPs, such as engineers, architects, accountants) or those who are primarily academics could significantly reduce the persistent formalisation in IA.[5] Expanding professional diversity could also lead to other benefits, including indeed more gender diversity, given that academia does not have the same non-linear remuneration structures for lawyers that disadvantage career progression for many women.[6] These and other issues associated with professional diversity are outlined in our recent research article entitled “Lawyers and Non-Lawyers in International Arbitration: Discovering Diminishing Diversity”.[7] That research article also empirically analyses the ways legal practitioners have come to prevail across the key nodes of influence within the IA sector. The rest of this blog post introduces our key empirical findings.[8]

Associations and Institutions Promoting Arbitration

First, we examined key groups that promote IA but do not themselves administer arbitration cases. The influential groups examined were the International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA), the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) and the International Bar Association (IBA).

The ICCA Board as of September 2021 largely comprised individuals falling primarily in the category of practising “Lawyer” (84%), executives of “International or Arbitral Organisations” (IAOs, typically leaders within arbitral institutions) (5%), “Mixed” (typically those having multiple professional engagements) (5%) and “Academic” (4%, essentially full-time). We also examined the composition of ICCA Taskforces for all years: Lawyer (61%), IAOs (18%), lawyers and NLPs working in Litigation Finance (7%), Mixed (7%) and Academic (6%). Authors of entries in the Young ICCA Blog between 19 October 2010 and 17 February 2021 fell into the categories of Lawyer (86%), Academic (10%) and Mixed (2%). Analysis of presentations in ICCA Congresses and related chapters in the ICCA Congress Series over the last 30 years also indicated the growing prevalence of Lawyers (60% over the entire period) within ICCA publications, and in parallel reflecting only small proportions of IAOs (14%), Academic (12%) and Mixed (9%).

The lack of diversity in professional backgrounds was also salient in the other groups. For example, the vast majority of CIArb Board Members in 2021 were from the Lawyer category (78%), in contrast to NLPs making up 15% of the Board (despite the earlier influence of NLPs in CIArb until around the 1990s) and no members falling into the Academic category. Speakers in CIArb Webinars from July 2020 to March 2021 comprised Lawyers (75%), Academic (12%), NLPs (9%) and IAOs (2%).

Meanwhile, the data is comparable at the IBA. As for the committee membership for proliferating IBA instruments, such as the Evidence-Taking Rules, there was an even heavier prevalence of Lawyers (95%) although this was less surprising given that the IBA is essentially a global federation of lawyers’ associations. Similarly, for IBA webinars, mostly from 2020 but also some from 2021, 94% of the key participants were Lawyer; only 4% could be coded as IAOs, while 2% were Academic.

Arbitration Institutions and Their Leaders

Next, we analysed the international and regional arbitration institutions having high caseloads and/or those deemed reasonably representative of civil or common law traditions and geographical diversity. These were ACICA, the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), London Court of International Arbitration (LCIA), the Swiss Arbitration Centre, the International Centre for Dispute Resolution (ICDR), the Singapore International Arbitration Centre (SIAC), the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKAIC), the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission (CIETAC), the Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC), the Japan Commercial Arbitration Association (JCAA), the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board (KCAB), the Thai Arbitration Institute (TAI) and the newer Thai Arbitration Centre (THAC).

To discern professional diversity within the leadership of these arbitration centres, we looked overall at the membership of various Boards, Councils, Committees, Taskforces and Courts as of 2021. The combined analysis confirmed Lawyers’ predominance (76%), as well as the comparatively small ratios of NLPs (11%), Academics (6%) and IAOs (1%).[9] We further investigated speakers and moderators at webinars and conferences organised by those arbitration centres in 2020 and the first half of 2021: Lawyers (80% in 2020 and 83% in 2021), IAOs (8% and 4% respectively), Academics (5% and 6%) and NLPs (4% and 5%).   

Indicative Journals, Books and Blogs

We also considered major journals for international arbitration, complementing an earlier analysis of periodicals and other publications.[10] These were Arbitration International (associated with the LCIA), Arbitration: The International Journal of Arbitration, Mediation and Dispute Management (CIArb), Asian International Arbitration Journal (SIAC) and the Journal of International Arbitration (published by Wolters Kluwer). Again, the overall extent of Lawyer involvement was striking. Editors of these four journals as of September 2021 were mostly Lawyer (75%), although there were somewhat more Academic (22%) than say for the leadership of the arbitration institutions as examined above. Then, we examined all the discernible articles (other than book reviews) published in the four journals from the late 1980s, when three were being published and some debate emerged about the role of NLPs in arbitration.[11] Sampling the journals essentially at five-yearly intervals (in 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009, 2014 and 2019-21) gave the following proportions for authors: Lawyer (71%), Academic (19%), IAOs (2%), NLPs (4%) and Mixed (3%). Analysing authorship categories over time found that absolute numbers and proportions of articles written by Lawyers had grown, especially over 2000-2010.

We further studied editors and authors of influential books and blogs. For books, for example, we investigated the International Arbitration Law Library Series published by Wolters Kluwer, with 59 titles since 1993 when the first volume of the Series was published. Coding editors and authors of these volumes and individual chapters demonstrated the dominance of Lawyer (50%) although a significant minority were from Academic (39%). Other professions such as IAOs, NLPs and Mixed occupied relatively small proportions (3%, 2% and 6%, respectively). On blogs, our analysis concentrated on Kluwer Arbitration Blog (KAB), as one of the most well established and widely read arbitration-related blogs. Comparing the KAB’s editorial team for August 2021 and 2018 (the latest year for which the Wayback Machine online allowed us to access a snapshot of the list of all editors), 80% were Lawyers and 20% were Academics. In addition, we studied backgrounds of blog authors in February, June and November in 2009, 2014 and 2019-21. The sampling found a similar prevalence of postings by Lawyer (79%), some by Academic (16%) and very occasionally by authors from an IAO (2%).

Concluding Remarks

The phenomena confirmed by our empirical research are clear: the entrenchment of lawyers through the world of IA, and the corresponding decline in involvement and influence of full-time academics and especially other NLPs. This growing lack of diversity in professional backgrounds contrasts with gender diversity, which has experienced some statistical improvements in appointments of arbitrators or other leadership positions in some arbitration centres.[12] One response to that ongoing “diversity deficit” might be to encourage more involvement of academics and NLPs in the leadership and activities of the significant arbitration associations and centres, as well as leading publication venues.[13] Such a response will help the IA sector develop diversity of perspectives because, as Joshua Karton suggests, such diversity may be enhanced by arbitrators with varied experiences who may think differently from the arbitration mainstream.[14] At least, we need more discussion and ongoing debate about the remarkable and continuing decline in professional diversity within IA.


[1] This article is a version of Nobumichi Teramura, Luke Nottage and James Tanna, ‘Declining Professional Diversity in International Arbitration’, Kluwer Arbitration Blog (Blog Post, 3 April 2022) <http://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2022/04/03/declining-professional-diversity-in-international-arbitration/>,

[2] ACICA, ‘Media Release: Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration Signs Equal Representation in Arbitration Pledge’ (20 June 2016) <https://acica.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Media-Release-Equal-Representation-in-Arbitration-Pledge.pdf>.

[3] Kiran Nasir Gore, ‘2021 In Review: Continued Strides in Favor of Diversity and Sustainable Development in International Arbitration’, Kluwer Arbitration Blog (Blog Post, 27 February 2022) < http://arbitrationblog.kluwerarbitration.com/2022/02/27/2021-in-review-continued-strides-in-favor-of-diversity-and-sustainable-development-in-international-arbitration/>.

[4] See <https://acica.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2022/01/ACICA-Guidance-Note-on-the-Appointment-of-Arbitrators-FF1.pdf> (emphasis added), available via <https://acica.org.au/acica-practice-procedures-toolkit/>.

[5] Nobumichi Teramura, Ex Aequo et Bono as a Response to the ‘Over-Judicialisation’ of International Commercial Arbitration (Wolters Kluwer, 2020).

[6] Claudia Goldin, Career and Family: Women’s Century-Long Journey toward Equity (Princeton University Press, 2021).

[7] Luke Nottage, Nobumichi Teramura and James Tanna, ‘Lawyers and Non-Lawyers in International Arbitration: Discovering Diminishing Diversity’ (September 2021) manuscript at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3926914>. A shorter version of that paper is also forthcoming in Shahla Ali, Filip Balcerzak, Giorgio Fabio Colombo and Joshua Karton (eds), Diversity in International Arbitration: Why It Matters and How to Sustain It (Elgar, 2022).

[8] As elaborated in the research article, including the methodological Appendix, we basically categorised all individuals in accordance with their primary profession at the time they were a member of the relevant arbitral organisation, the relevant publication was written, or the relevant presentation was given.

[9] The proportion for ACICA was higher in 2021: see Luke Nottage, Nobumichi Teramura and James Tanna, ‘Lawyers and Non-Lawyers in International Arbitration: Discovering Diminishing Diversity’ (n 7) 24. Tracking its Board size and composition over time, see also Luke Nottage and Richard Garnett, “The Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration” in Helene Ruiz Fabri (gen ed) Max Planck Encyclopedia of International Procedural Law(Oxford University Press, 2019) via https://www.mpi.lu/mpeipro/.

[10] Luke Nottage, ‘International Arbitration and Society at Large’ in Andrea Bjorklund, Franco Ferrari and Stefan Kroll (eds), Cambridge Compendium of International Commercial and Investment Arbitration (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2022), manuscript at <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3116528>.

[11] The Asian International Arbitration Journal was published from 2005.

[12] ICCA, Report of the Cross-Institutional Task Force on Gender Diversity in Arbitral Appointments and Proceedings (The ICCA Reports No 8, 2020).

[13] Andrea K Bjorklund et al, ‘The Diversity Deficit in International Investment Arbitration’ (2020) 21(2-3) The Journal of World Investment & Trade 410.

[14] Joshua Karton, ‘Diversity in Four Dimensions: Conceptualizing Diversity in International Arbitration’ (March 2022) <https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=4054031>.

Developing Diversity within Diversity Discourse: Remembering Non-Lawyers in Arbitration, in Asia and Beyond

This is the title of a presentation (Powerpoints in PDF here) for the Lawasia conference in Sydney, specifically on 20 November 2022, and earlier the 28-29 May 2022 19th ASLI Asian Law Conference, hosted this year by the University of Tokyo. It is based on an empirical study by myself, ANJeL-in-ASEAN convenor Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura, and USydney research assistant James Tanna. It adds some directly Asia-related data to the analysis presented in a forthcoming chapter in Shahla Ali et al (eds) Diversity in International Arbitration (Elgar, late 2022), with a longer paper available via SSRN and a posting summarising key empirical findings via Kluwer Arbitration Blog.

Our presentation also suggests that given the relative influence still of law professors in developing international arbitration in Asian states, particularly perhaps those more influenced by the civil law tradition, the large and growing dominance of full-time lawyers across the field may have a significant indirect impact on international arbitration in Asia.

Presentation Abstract: This paper, co-authored with Asst Prof Nobumichi Teramura (UBrunei) and James Tanna (USydney), highlights a curious lack of diversity within the proliferating discourse about the lack of diversity in international arbitration. There is hardly any awareness or at least sustained discussion about limited diversity of professional backgrounds, and more specifically the dominance nowadays of those with practising lawyer positions or primary careers – including more recently in Asia – across the key groups and publication outlets for international arbitration. Yet this encroachment of lawyers was still being contested in the 1990s, as being linked to burgeoning costs and delays, and such “formalisation” has been re-emerging in recent years. Diversifying the world of international arbitration to involve more non-lawyers, including academics, could promote various other objectives too, and thus enhance the legitimacy and sustainability of international arbitration.

This paper therefore analyses empirically the ways lawyers have come to dominate key nodes of influence within the world of international arbitration. We examine this worldwide and in the Asian region, thus also giving a sense of geographical diversity. Part I looks at lawyers in key general associations or organisations promoting international arbitration, including their leadership and presenters at symposiums. Part II focuses on various arbitration centres globally and regionally, which actually administer cases. Part III examines contributions to some key arbitration journals (including the Asian International Arbitration Journal), an influential book series, and a widely-read Blog. The conclusion reiterates that restoring more non-lawyers in the world of international arbitration should help not only to reduce formalisation and inefficiencies in international arbitration, but also have various other salutary effects, including potentially improving gender diversity.