Submission to ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) upgrade consultation

[The following analysis provided to Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Regional Trade Agreements Division) is relevant also for assessing Australia’s other trade and investment agreements, including with Japan bilaterally and through regional treaties such as the CPTPP and the recently concluded Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.]

Thank you for the opportunity to provide a submission to this important public consultation. I see some others are online,[1] and please upload there my present submission. Unfortunately other commitments probably preclude my attendance at the Thursday 2 April meetings in Sydney, but please let me know that day’s timetable as one or more of my co-researchers cited below may be willing and able to attend.

1. For the Services chapter, an important matter for Australia to review will be provisions around delivery of education. The coronavirus epidemic this year has highlighted that Australia’s FTAs (even more recent ones as with China) often do not include commitments allowing cross-border supply (ie service delivery over the internet), which may otherwise conflict with the national laws in our overseas partners.[2] As well as negotiating more expansive commitments, Australia should seek to draft in provisions around procedures for meeting and discussing urgently with counterparties about counter-measures during public health emergencies, as suggested by our A/Prof Jeanne Huang at the recent SCIL International Law in Review conference (in the context of China-Australia FTA upgrades). Such procedural provisions could also be extended to other chapters, including Trade in Goods.

2. For the Investment chapter, AANZFTA in 2009 originally lacked significant liberalisation commitments.[3] A work program for negotiations around expanding market access was envisaged but never completed.[4] This AANZFTA upgrade should at least lock in (through Schedules) liberalisation commitments made under other treaties concluded by Australia with counterpart ASEAN states (including the still undisclosed RCEP), but should go further to provide “value added”. If a Work Program is agreed for further negotiations, the revised AANZFTA should include commitments about when and how to meet, including provisions allowing for public consultation.

3. For the Investment chapter, on protections for foreign investors (including significantly now into ASEAN compared to a decade ago),[5] Australia presumably goes into upgrade negotiations using its most recent significant treaties as a starting point, especially the US-style template (building on NAFTA and epitomised by the CP/TPP) that has become the most common drafting approach around the Asia-Pacific region more generally.[6] However, views around ISDS-backed protections have changed in recent years, regionally (with the EU proposing several novel features, impacting also on Asia[7]) and in multilateral forums (UNCTAD, ICSID and especially UNCITRAL). Australia needs to become more consistently pro-active (arguably working with close partners especially New Zealand) in addressing persistent concerns about ISDS-backed protections in investment agreements, and this review of AANZFTA therefore should propose:

3.1 Minimising costs and delays through promoting amicable settlement,[8] by allowing a disputing party to require the other to attempt to mediate an investment dispute, before proceeding to arbitration. (This was provided under Australia’s recently signed bilateral FTA with Indonesia, although that was seemingly proposed by Indonesia and only allows the host state to compel mediation,[9] whereas an investor should be able to compel it too.).

3.2 Maximising transparency around ISDS (including disclosure around third-party funding) by explicitly adopting the UNCITRAL Transparency Rules (as under Australia’s recently revised BIT with Uruguay), and/or including similar provisions in the upgraded AANZFTA investment chapter text (as under the CP/TPP and/or Australia’s recent bilateral FTA with Peru).[10] Greater transparency benefits almost all stakeholders, not just (especially democratically accountable) host states but also foreign investors (able therefore to better expose protectionist or other vested interests in host states, to the detriment of other groups in those host states).[11] This is also consistent with Australia’s current efforts to ratify the UN Mauritius Transparency Convention; but that only retrofits greater ISDS transparency around pre-2014 treaties even if counterparties ratify that multilateral instrument too in future.

3.3 Further enhancing legitimacy around ISDS by expressly prohibiting “double-hatting” (arbitrators acting also as counsel), as under the CPTPP Code of Conduct,[12] as well as recent EU treaties (albeit for its now-preferred “investment court” alternative to traditional ISDS). Curiously Australia has not provided such an express prohibition in any other treaty, even its recent FTA with Peru (although both states are supposed to issue Guidance for ISDS arbitrators now that it is in force, so that prohibition might still be added there).

3.4 Australia should propose the “public welfare notice” procedure added uniquely in its FTA with China. This usefully suspends ISDS claims while the home state discusses with the host state potential defences relating to public welfare interests in the host state.[13]

3.5 However, as another aspect relating to public health risks such as coronavirus, the AANZFTA upgrade should consider express provisions expediting cross-border movement of senior management related to foreign investments, even in emerging emergency situations.

4. For the Competition chapter, this should be upgraded at least to CPTPP-style standards, but it should be boosted by more expansive Consumer Protection provisions especially now that ASEAN states have made significant (albeit sometimes patchy) progress in this field over last decade as part of building the ASEAN Economic Community.[14] I understand my Business School colleague Prof Gail Pearson has completed an ACCC-funded scoping project, so urge that to be publically disclosed so further informed comment and publically discussed. I also repeat my longstanding calls for Australia to seek provisions in FTAs that require or at least allow respective regulators to exchange consumer product safety accident-related information with their counterparts abroad. This could also be extended to sharing information about consumer credit related risks.[15]

5. The AANZFTA upgrade should also propose a chapter on Environmental Protection, as this is another public concern around FTAs. In particular this should incorporate this FTA’s dispute settlement procedures into other listed environmental protection treaties. The inspiration should be the CPTPP, but drafting improvements are helpfully suggested by our A/Prof Jeanne Huang.[16]


[1] https://www.dfat.gov.au/trade/agreements/in-force/aanzfta/Pages/general-review-of-the-asean-australia-new-zealand-fta.aspx

[2] Huang, Jeanne, https://erga-omnes.sydney.edu.au/2020/02/coronavirus-outbreak-and-teaching-chinese-students-online-legal-issues-that-australian-universities-should-know/

[3] Bath, Vivienne and Nottage, Luke R., The ASEAN Comprehensive Investment Agreement and ‘ASEAN Plus’ – The Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) and the PRC-ASEAN Investment Agreement (September 26, 2013). INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT LAW: A HANDBOOK, M. Bungenberg, J. Griebel, S.Hobe & A. Reinisch, eds., Nomos Verlagsgellschaft: Germany, 2015; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 13/69. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2331714

[4] Bath, Vivienne and Nottage, Luke R., International Investment Agreements and Investor-State Arbitration in Asia (February 26, 2020). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 20/08. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3544458 (footnotes omitted):

“The AANZFTA provides that the provisions on NT in the Investment Chapter will not come into effect until the Schedules of Reservations were finalized (Art 11.16) under a Work Program. Further negotiations on an MFN provision were also to take place under the Work Program (Art 11.16).  This has not been completed. Indeed, review of the investment chapter was paused in 2017 pending the finalisation of the RCEP, although the Economic Ministers of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand noted in late 2019 the Upgrade Negotiations to amend the AANZFTA (for the second time) as a result of a review which will include the investment chapter.”

[5] See ASEAN Investment Report 2018 ch1, via https://asean.org/asean-investment-report-2018-published/

[6] Alschner, Wolfgang and Skougarevskiy, Dmitriy, The New Gold Standard? Empirically Situating the TPP in the Investment Treaty Universe (November 20, 2015). Journal of World Investment & Trade, Vol. 17, pp. 339-373 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2823476 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2823476

[7] Kawharu, Amokura and Nottage, Luke R., Models for Investment Treaties in the Asian Region: An Underview (September 21, 2016). Arizona Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol 34, No. 3, pp. 462-528, 2017 ; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 16/87. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2845088

[8] See generally, forthcoming in JWIT: Ubilava, Ana, Amicable Settlements in Investor-State Disputes: Empirical Analysis of Patterns and Perceived Problems (March 13, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/17. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3352181

[9] Ubilava, Ana and Nottage, Luke R., Novel and Noteworthy Aspects of Australia’s Recent Investment Agreements and ISDS Policy: The CPTPP, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Mauritius Transparency Treaties (March 4, 2020). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 20/12. Available at SSRN: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3548358

[10] Ibid.

[11] Burch, Micah and Nottage, Luke R. and Williams, Brett G., Appropriate Treaty-Based Dispute Resolution for Asia-Pacific Commerce in the 21st Century (May 24, 2012). University of New South Wales Law Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3, pp. 1013-1040; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 12/37. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2065636

[12] See Nottage, Luke R. and Ubilava, Ana, Costs, Outcomes and Transparency in ISDS Arbitrations: Evidence for an Investment Treaty Parliamentary Inquiry (August 6, 2018). International Arbitration Law Review, Vol. 21, Issue 4, 2018; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/46. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3227401;

and Concept Paper on Arbitrator Independence via https://www.cids.ch/academic-forum-concept-papers

[13] For more details see Nottage, Luke R., Investment Treaty Arbitration Policy in Australia, New Zealand – and Korea? (August 13, 2015). Journal of Arbitration Studies, Vol. 25, No. 3, pp. 185-226, 2015; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 15/66. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2643926

[14] Nottage, Luke R. and Malbon, Justin E. and Paterson, Jeannie Marie and Beaton Wells, Caron Y., ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation and Cooperation: Backdrop and Overarching Perspectives (June 3, 2019). Luke Nottage, Justin Malbon, Jeannie Marie Paterson and Caron Beaton-Wells, “ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation and Cooperation: Achievements and Challenges”, Cambridge University Press (2019); Sydney Law School Research Paper No. #19/32. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3398046

[15] Nottage, Luke R., Free Trade Agreement and Investment Treaty Innovations to Promote More Sustainable Financial Markets for Consumers (July 2, 2014). THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL CRISIS AND THE NEED FOR CONSUMER REGULATION: NEW DEVELOPMENTS ON INTERNATIONAL PROTECTION OF CONSUMER, C. Lima Marques, D. P. Fernandez Arroyo, I. Ramsay, G. Pearson, eds., Orquestra Editora, Brazil, 2012; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 14/59. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2461568

[16] Huang, Jie Jeanne and Hu, Jiaxiang, Can Free Trade Agreements Enhance MARPOL 73/78 Compliance? (October 3, 2018). Tulane Maritime Law Journal, Vol. 43. 2018, pp. 59-91; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 18/62. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3259734

“New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region”: Symposium 17 June 2020 (2-5pm) at/with Taylor’s University, Kuala Lumpur

Supported also by the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS), Sydney Southeast Asia Centre (SSEAC) & Asian International Arbitration Centre (AIAC)

This half-day symposium brings together academic researchers and practitioners in international dispute resolution, exploring new developments regionally impacting on international commercial arbitration as well as investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). These extend to initiatives around cross-border mediation, international commercial courts, and China’s Belt and Road project. The symposium builds on a research project over 2019 between the University of Sydney and Hong Kong University (focusing on Australia, HK, China, Japan and Singapore)[1], to examine more closely developments also in Malaysia and other parts of Asia.

Please register your attendance for this complimentary symposium via email to avijayalakshmi.venugopal@taylors.edu.my.

Time Session
2-2.10 pm Welcome Message Mr. Harmahinder Singh Head, Taylor’s Law School, Taylor’s University
2.15-2.40 pm Mediating Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions[2] Professor Luke Nottage Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
2.45-3.10 pm Recent Developments of Institutional Arbitration in China: Specialization, Digitalization and Internationalization[3] Associate Professor Jie Huang Sydney Law School, University of Sydney
3.15-3.40 pm Malaysia’s Involvement in International Business Dispute Resolution[4] Dr. A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal Taylor’s Law School, Taylor’s University
3.45-4 pm Closing Remarks Professor Luke Nottage & Dr. A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal
4-4.40 pm Refreshments  

Speakers’ Profiles

Dr Luke Nottage (BCA, LLB, PhD VUW, LLM Kyoto) specialises in comparative and transnational business law (especially arbitration, investment law, contract and consumer law), with a particular interest in Japan and the Asia-Pacific. He is Professor of Comparative and Transnational Business Law at Sydney Law School, founding Co-Director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law (ANJeL), and Associate Director of the Centre for Asian and Pacific Law at the University of Sydney (CAPLUS). He has held fellowships at other leading institutions in Japan and Australia as well as Germany, Italy, Canada and Thailand.

Luke’s 16 books include International Arbitration in Australia (2010, eds), Foreign Investment and Dispute Resolution in Asia (2011, eds), International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (2018, eds), Contract Law in Japan (2019) and ASEAN Consumer Law Harmonisation and Cooperation (2019, both co-authored).

He has or had executive roles in the Australia-Japan Society (NSW), the Law Council of Australia’s International Law Section, the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration, and the Asia-Pacific Forum for International Arbitration. Luke is also a Rules committee member of ACICA and listed on the Panel of Arbitrators for the AIAC (formerly KLRCA), BAC, JCAA, KCAB, NZIAC, SCIA and TAI. Luke has consulted for law firms world-wide, the EC, the OECD, the UNDP, ASEAN and the Japanese government; and has contributed to arbitration and consumer law reform and investment treaty-making in Australia. He qualified as a lawyer in New Zealand in 1994 and in New South Wales in 2001.

Dr Jie (Jeanne) Huang, SJD (law) Duke University School of Law in the US; Master of International Law and LLB, Shanghai University of International Business and Economics in China. Dr. Jeanne Huang is an associate professor at the University of Sydney Law School in Australia. She is widely known for her research on legal issues in digital trade and e-commerce, international investment and Chinese law. She has published four books and authored many articles in leading peer-reviewed law journals, such as Journal of International Economic Law and Journal of Private International Law. Twelve of her articles are indexed by SSCI. She has received funding from University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, China National Social Science Fund general project (equivalent to Australian ARC), China Ministry of Education, the China Law Society, Shanghai Philosophy and Social Science Fund, and Shanghai Government Development and Research Centre Fund on research topics related to international trade and investment regulations.

Dr. A. Vijayalakshmi Venugopal (LLB, MEd(Psy), LLM, PhD) is a Senior Lecturer in Taylor’s Law School, teaching various modules in the LLB and LLM degrees, including Alternative Dispute Resolution, Law of the World Trade Organization and International Sale of Goods. She has supervised a number of LLM theses on international arbitration. She is the author of 3 books and various articles on law. She has also presented conference papers on and been a trainer in education. She qualified as an advocate and solicitor in Malaysia.


[1] https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au/2019/02/

[2] Claxton, James M. and Nottage, Luke R. and Williams, Brett G., Mediating Japan-Korea Trade and Investment Tensions (December 3, 2019). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/73. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3497299.

[3] Jie (Jeanne) Huang (2019), Recent Developments of Institutional Arbitration in China: Specialization, Digitalization and Internationalization, in Julien Chaisse & Jiaxiang Hu (Eds), International Economic Law and the Challenges of the Free Zones, (pp. 251-275), Wolters Kluwer.

[4] Venugopal, A. V., Malaysia’s Involvement in International Business Dispute Resolution, in Ali, S., Jetin, B.; Nottage, L.; and Teramura, N., New Frontiers in Asia-Pacific International Arbitration and Dispute Resolution, Wolters Kluwer.

“Ghosn is gone”: criminal justice and corporate governance in Japan

[Updated 10 July 2020] Japan welcomed in the New Year of the Mouse (or Rat) with intense media coverage nationally and internationally about former Nissan CEO then President, Carlos Ghosn, who escaped bail on 29 December 2019 to return to his native Lebanon. The ongoing saga (with background eg here) mainly highlights pros and cons of Japan’s evolving criminal justice system, where almost all prosecutions are successful. That 99% conviction rate can be seen positively: prosecutors carefully try to second-guess judges, without subjecting the accused to unnecessary trials. This enhances rule of law values such as predictability and equal treatment, even for alleged white-collar crimes (often not successfully pursued, as we have seen world-wide after the Global Financial Crisis, even in the US). [There is a similarly high conviction rate for US federal prosecutions generally, since so few are contested at trial, as pointed out by Bruce Aronson.] But there remain concerns that Japanese prosecutors unfairly force confessions and the criminal justice system undermines other rule of law values. [These various aspects were discussed along with background shifts in the global auto industry in a 30-minute ABC National Radio program, “Ghosn has flown – the rise and fall of an auto industry mogul”, which aired on 9 February 2020 and is available as a podcast here (with extracts from my interview appearing around mid-way.)] The Ghosn affair also uncovers Japan’s relative paucity of extradition treaties, as I mentioned in a 3 January 2020 Bloomberg news article reproduced below (reprinted in the Japan Times, which continues extensive coverage).

The Ghosn case also highlights the latest (December 2019) amendments to Japan’s Companies Act, “designed to increase transparency in executive compensation at major companies in the wake of the ouster of Nissan Chairman Carlos Ghosn, who was arrested last year for allegedly understating his compensation. He has continued to deny allegations of financial misconduct. Boards of directors will now be required to disclose outlines of executive pay, such as whether it is offered in cash or shares and in a fixed or variable amount.” The revised Act also now requires companies to have at least one outside director, rather than on a “comply or explain why not” basis as under the 2014 amendments. But the revision won’t take effect until June 2021. In addition, almost all listed companies already had at least one outside director, and indeed a growing majority had at least two outside directors satisfying stricter “independence” requirements, under the 2015 Corporate Governance Code (slighted revised in 2018) that continues to apply on the comply or explain basis.

Further, as a Japan Times editorial had concluded in February 2019 (“Empower outside directors“) regarding the Companies Act amendments then being proposed by the Ministry of Justice’s law reform council:

“After the arrest of Ghosn on that and other charges that raised questions about corporate governance at the major automaker, Nissan is reportedly considering increasing the number of outside directors from the current three. However, the charges against Ghosn, who is alleged to have wielded unquestioned power within the automaker, including in deciding executive pay effectively at his own discretion, also put into question whether the outside directors have been able to play substantial roles in overseeing the firm’s management.

The arrest and indictment last year of a former outside director of an electric parts manufacturer listed on the TSE’s first section, on charges of insider trading of the firm’s shares based on confidential information he obtained thanks to his position — also highlighted the question of the quality of outside directors that companies are bringing in.

Many companies are believed to look for candidates among top executives of other firms, academics and lawmakers. The companies often reportedly face difficulties finding the right person with sufficient knowledge and expertise on corporate management. In fact, many well-qualified people are reportedly serving as outside directors at several companies simultaneously. Another question is whether the companies that tap them have established an in-house environment in which these directors can fulfil the roles expected of them, such as by providing them with sufficient access to the firm’s relevant information or by enabling them to be regularly heard by the company’s top management.

Merely making it mandatory under the law for companies to have outside directors on their board won’t be enough. A legal step like this needs to be accompanied by measures that ensure they can actually contribute to improving their company’s governance.”


Ghosn’s Escape From Japan Ramps Up Pressure on Foreign Suspects

By  Lisa DuBruce Einhorn , and  Isabel Reynolds 3 January 2020, 5:55 pm AEDT

  • Foreigners expected to face tougher time posting bail
  • Ex-Nissan boss paid record bail bill, then fled the country

The Tokyo district court let Carlos Ghosn post bail last March, overruling prosecutors’ objections that he was a flight risk. After all, how could one of the most recognizable foreigners in the country flee while under round-the-clock surveillance?

As the world learned this week, the court was wrong and Ghosn’s stunning escape is bound to bode ill for future foreign suspects seeking to post bail. Yet longer term, the fallout could carry broader implications for the pace of reforms to a justice system some regard as draconian.

“It’s ironic that Ghosn criticized the Japanese justice system as hostage justice, because the prosecutor’s judgment turned out to be right since he actually fled,” said Hiroki Sasakura, a professor at Keio University Law School in Tokyo. “His action might have a reverse effect on the criminal justice system, especially the Japanese court’s way of thinking, which was turning more liberal.”

Given the high-profile nature of the suspect, Japan’s legal system was already under heightened global scrutiny, with critics lambasting prosecutors for detaining the fallen automotive titan so long.

Even after gaining release from prison, the former head of Nissan Motor Co. and Renault SA had restricted access to family members and paid the highest bail fees in Japanese history: 1 billion yen ($9.2 million) for his first bail and then another 500 million yen after he was rearrested on new charges. And the court ordered his three passports — from Brazil, France and Lebanon — be confiscated.

(Ghosn’s Legal Odyssey and What It Says About Japan: QuickTake)

Japan is unusual for its lengthy pre-trial detentions, strict bail conditions and long delays before suspects are given their day in court, said Luke Nottage, a professor at the University of Sydney Law School and co-director of the Australian Network for Japanese Law.

More Lenience

In response to criticism from defense attorneys and after the introduction of a new jury trial system and pretrial procedures, Japanese courts in recent years were more lenient in allowing bail, Keio’s Sasakura said. A backlash has already begun, with Ichiro Aisawa, a lawmaker from Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party, denouncing the decision to give Ghosn bail in the first place.

“This should have never happened,” Aisawa wrote on Twitter. “We need to establish measures so we don’t screw up ever again.”

In Japan, authorities are allowed to detain suspects for two 10-day periods for questioning before a decision is made on whether to indict. Sometimes suspects are rearrested on new charges as a way to detain them longer.

Prosecutors rarely pursue cases they think they can’t win, and Japan is known for its near-perfect conviction rate.

Those indicted in Japan may apply for bail as they await trial. About 34% of those detained received bail in 2018, according to the Japan Bail Support Association. That’s up from 15% a decade ago.

‘Rigged’ System?

Such statistics reinforce the criticism by Ghosn, who issued a statement on Dec. 31 from Lebanon saying he had fled there to escape what he called Japan’s “rigged” justice system. This may lead to further calls for a more balanced system, according to Yuichi Kaido, a lawyer who has campaigned for changes to Japan’s criminal justice system.

“I think the international community will look at Japan’s criminal justice system with great severity,” Kaido said. “There will be harsh questions raised there about Japan’s criminal justice system, including the death penalty and what is called hostage justice.”

However, the Ghosn case isn’t likely to have a lasting impact on Japan’s attractiveness as an investment destination, according to Deborah Elms, executive director of Asian Trade Centre, a Singapore-based advisory firm. Foreign companies considering investments in Japan won’t be deterred by the situation surrounding Ghosn, she added, with Asian companies accustomed to unpredictable rules.

“This is just another example of an uncertain legal system that can be worked to your advantage or could come back and bite you,” she said.

Japan should resist internal calls to retaliate by making it even more difficult for suspects to win release from prison ahead of trial, said Nobuo Gohara, a former prosecutor who has been critical of the handling of Ghosn’s case.

“It’s very unfortunate that the efforts of his attorneys to obtain bail and the court’s judgment against the prosecutors to allow it was betrayed,” Gohara wrote in a blog post. “But we shouldn’t simplify the issue to that the court shouldn’t have allowed bail.”

There’s a change that may win widespread support after Ghosn’s escape: a push for more extradition treaties. Japan has only two bilateral agreements, with the U.S. and South Korea. That compares with more than 30 for South Korea and more than 100 for the U.S.

“It’s just one of those areas where they haven’t given much thought and diplomatic attention,” said Nottage, the University of Sydney Law School professor. “The Japanese government might be thinking about maybe we need more extradition treaties.”

— With assistance by Kana Nishizawa

New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region (6): 15 November symposium @USydney

As part of a research project jointly funded by HKU and USydney over 2019 (see background and many related postings via https://japaneselaw.sydney.edu.au), Sydney Law School will host a second symposium on Asia-Pacific business dispute resolution, all day on 15 November (the Friday before Australia Arbitration Week, this year in Brisbane), with support from CAPLUS, SCIL, TDM and various other ADR or international law related organisations. Registration and speaker bios are here, and presentation Abstracts and/or online publications are being uploaded below. During refreshments following symposium presentations and panel discussions, there will also be a book launch of Vivienne Bath and Gabriel Moens, Law of International Business in Australasia (Federation Press, October 2018).

Challenges and opportunities for Asia-Pacific international commercial arbitration symposium

15 November 2019

Building on Reyes & Gu (eds), The Developing World of Arbitration: A Comparative Study of Arbitration Reform in the Asia-Pacific (Hart, 2018), this symposium examines more recent challenges for international commercial arbitration (ICA), especially the proliferation of international commercial courts, the 2018 UN Convention on enforcement of mediated settlement agreements, and dispute resolution for the Belt & Road initiative. The main focus is on Hong Kong and Singapore (competing jurisdictions in the top “Stage 4” for ICA venues, as identified by Reyes & Gu), Australia (a “Stage 3” venue), China and Japan (“Stage 2” venues).

The symposium will also compare approaches in these jurisdictions to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Building on Chaisse and Nottage (eds) International Investment Treaties and Arbitration Across Asia (Brill, 2018), participants will chart evolving treaty practices and high-profile ISDS cases (including eg in Indonesia), assess whether these do or might impact on public attitudes even towards ICA or other forms of arbitration, and explore alternatives or complements to ISDS.

Speakers:

  • Professor Shahla Ali, University of Hong Kong
  • Professor Vivienne Bath, University of Sydney Law School
  • Adj Prof Max Bonell, Henry Williams Lawyers & Sydney Law School
  • Professor Simon Bronitt, Dean, Sydney Law School
  • Professor Simon Butt, University of Sydney Law School
  • Professor James Claxton, Kobe University
  • The Hon Dr Clyde Croft AM SC, Supreme Court of Victoria
  • Daniel Forster, Clifford Chance & University of Sydney Law School
  • Dr Benjamin Hayward, Monash University
  • Brenda Horrigan, ACICA President & Herbert Smith Freehills
  • Dr Jeanne Huang, The University of Sydney Law School
  • Wilson Mbugua, University of Hong Kong
  • James Morrison, ACICA & Morrison Law
  • The Hon Kevin Lindgren AM QC FAAL, formerly Federal Court of Australia (in lieu of Roger Gyles AO QC, ABA rapporteur for inquiry available via https://austbar.asn.au/singapore-2019/papers)
  • Professor Luke Nottage, University of Sydney Law School
  • Jonathan Redwood, Banco Chambers
  • Yi Tang, University of Hong Kong
  • Dr Nobumichi (Nobu) Teramura, University of Adelaide
  • Professor Leon Trakman, UNSW
  • Professor The Hon Marilyn Warren AC QC, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria

VIEW THE DRAFT PROGRAM (as at 9 August 2019; update via Registration webpage)

ABSTRACTS:

Ali, Shahla, “ICA and ISDS Developments in Hong Kong in the Context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative” (September 13, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3453061
This article examines the impact of both the Belt and Road Initiative and the UNCITRAL Model Law on International Arbitration (the Model Law) on both international commercial and investor state arbitration practice in Hong Kong. Given the significance of Hong Kong as a gateway to OBOR project financing and logistics, understanding current dispute resolution policy is critical for gaining insights into China’s approach to the resolution of OBOR disputes. Measures taken to modernize the practice of arbitration including training programmes and legislative reforms are examined with a view to gaining insights into challenges and future developments.

Claxton, James M. and Nottage, Luke R. and Teramura, Nobumichi, “Developing Japan as a Regional Hub for International Dispute Resolution: Dream Come True or Daydream?” Journal of Japanese Law, Issue 47, 2019; Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 19/01. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3299097
The Japanese government, supported by various stakeholders, has recently been attempting to develop Japan as another regional hub for international business dispute resolution services. Tracking this development is important for both theoretical and practical reasons. How it unfolds should reveal which of various theories for explaining Japanese law-related behaviour have more traction nowadays. Assessing the new initiatives is also important for legal practitioners and others interested in the practical question of where to arbitrate or mediate cross-border business disputes. This paper therefore reports on current attempts to promote existing and new international arbitration centres in Japan as well as the recent establishment of the Japan International Mediation – Kyoto, in the context of intensifying competition from other regional venues for dispute resolution services. [Our presentation also updates on the Japan-Korea trade and investment tensions that escalated from mid-2019, and the various dispute resolution options that could be engaged.]

Teramura, Nobumichi, Luke Nottage and James Morrison, “International Commercial Arbitration in Australia: Judicial Control over Arbitral Awards” (updated June 2019)
Geographical remoteness has not prevented Australia from pursuing its ambition to become a major hub for international commercial arbitration (ICA). While regional competitors in the Asia-Pacific region such as Singapore and Hong Kong have already achieved great success in the arbitration world, Australia’s ‘Tyranny of Distance’ requires extra efforts to attract ICA cases. Recent marketing from the Australian government emphasises (1) a harmonised legal framework for ICA in line with international standards; (2) sophisticated arbitration institutions; and (3) some of the world’s leading arbitration practitioners.
While these factors do reveal strong potential to attract ICA cases, to ensure that this goes beyond a mere possibility, the Australian government and judiciary are making quite concerted broader efforts. The former has recently become more vigorous in marketing Australia-based ICA in and out of the country. The latter has generally tried to issue pro-arbitration judgments particularly over the last ten years, and in public speeches or publications leading judges have been actively summarising and promoting Australian developments both domestically and world-wide. However the court system has structural problems, due to the shared ICA jurisdiction of State and Territory Courts alongside the Federal Courts, compared to the unitary system in Hong Kong and Singapore. There are also persistent delays in court-related ICA matters under the IAA, even in the Federal Court of Australia. Nonetheless, perfection is never attainable.
The rest of this paper argues that Australia has significantly improved legal environment for ICA in line with international standards, focusing on the main topics identified for a wider cross-jurisdictional research project: (1) arbitrator bias; (2) conflicts of interests; (3) procedural irregularities and arbitrator’s misconduct during proceedings; (4) arbitrability (objective arbitrability) (5) judicial interpretation of arbitration clauses (subjective arbitrability); and (6) enforceability of arbitral awards (especially regarding public policy).

Nottage, Luke, “Confidentiality versus Transparency in International Arbitration: Asia-Pacific Tensions and Expectations” (August 29, 2019) Sydney Law School Research Paper No. #19/52, August 2019. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3444692

Both Australia and Japan lie geographically on the periphery of the Asian region, where international arbitration has been burgeoning especially over the last 15 years. Both countries have struggled to attract significantly more arbitration cases, despite quite extensive efforts (especially by Australia); most cases still go to Hong Kong, Singapore and (especially where local parties are involved) China. This is despite increasingly strict confidentiality obligations being introduced through the rules of the major arbitration institutions, and/or legislation, in Japan and especially Australia. Although aiming to meet the usual expectations of businesspeople and their legal advisors in international commercial dispute resolution, these changes may be “too little, too late”. By contrast, transparency obligations have been added increasingly around the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) option included in almost all investment treaties concluded respectively by Australia and Japan. This tendency arguably reflects growing concerns about the public interests implicated by ISDS cases (especially in Australia). Australia has gone the next step of revising its legislation in 2018 to automatically exempt some investment treaty arbitrations from the confidentiality obligations otherwise imposed by default on parties and others in Australia-seated international arbitration proceedings since 2015. Japan does not need to, because its legislation does not apply confidentiality to arbitrations by default. This paper explores possible tensions between these two trajectories in each country. The lessons may be particularly interesting for other jurisdictions (perhaps like Italy) interested in how best to promote and attract international arbitration cases amidst evolving expectations in business and wider communities. The tensions may also influence the EU’s ongoing negotiations for investment protection treaties with respectively Australia and Japan.

Hayward, Ben, “Arbitration in Australia – Efficient, Effective, Economical? A Retrospective”
On 4 December 2009, Australia’s arbitration profession met in Melbourne for a conference hosted by ACICA – the Australian Centre for International Commercial Arbitration – Australia’s leading international arbitral institution. The conference was titled ‘International Commercial Arbitration: Efficient, Effective, Economical?’ – reflecting efficiency, effectiveness, and economic viability’s status as important concerns held by the profession.  Australia’s arbitration laws have been amended many times since then, with a number of significant cases also having been handed down since that time.  One decade later, it is an apt time to ask whether post-2009 developments in Australia’s arbitration laws have addressed these three concerns, and if so, to what extent.  This is the analysis undertaken by this project, which draws upon ten years of developments in Australian arbitration law to identify implications for future law reform in this area.

Warren, Margaret and Croft, Clyde, “An International Commercial Court for Australia: An Idea Worth Taking to Market”

[Extracted from Conclusion of the draft paper:] When the significant trade agreements negotiated by the Federal government are considered with respect to Asia, especially China, and the Pacific, the opportunities offered by an Australian international court are almost boundless. Indeed, there is a symmetry in the establishment of an Australian court which would complement the trade agreements. The proposal for an international commercial court for Australia cannot be left to the Courts themselves or the legal profession to develop and agitate. The experiences of Singapore, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and indeed, London demonstrate that it is vital for there to be government interest and support for such a proposal.

It is also important to be reminded that a proposal for an Australian court occurs within an international context [… including also] an important legal institute … established in the Asian region in which Australia is an active participant: The Asian Business Law Institute …

A stronger contribution can be made to the rule of law by courts working together than if they are working separately. The early 21st Century is being defined by something of a return to internationalisation and globalisation, although the form and forms that will take remain to be seen. It is for us to shape those forms in the capacity we can and to make contributions towards global stability, harmonisation and due recognition of the law in the context of commercial enterprise. These common purposes, as well as quality of justice and the manner of its administration provided at commercial courts and arbitral tribunals, international and domestic, should be promoted and indeed marketed.

Trakman, Leon “An Australian Perspective on Investment Treaty Negotiations and Investment Arbitration

Notwithstanding the vision of model Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) provisions across the international community of states, the obstacles are profound.  Supporters propose a cost-benefit analysis to determine the provisions’ utility.  But states are likely to diverge over the costs and benefits of such a multilateral instrument  Material factors will include the stages of development of the states in issue, the kinds of foreign investors (likely) attracted, and alternatives to investor-state arbitration (including recourse to host state courts). Prospects for a model investment treaty that applies internationally are doubtful at best.  Indeed, states that already have their own models, such as the US and China, agonise over their content when revising them, including in relation to ISDS. 

Notably, too, some (especially developing) states that have lost arbitration claims brought by foreign investors have forsaken ISDS in favour of leaving recourse to domestic courts.  Some Latin American states, such as Ecuador and Bolivia, adopted this position after massive losses to foreign investors from developed countries.  More recently, developed states have displayed wariness of ISDS. Australia, unlike Germany and Canada, has never lost an investor-arbitration claim – including the ISDS claim brought by Philip Morris. But it briefly forsook ISDS arbitration a decade ago under a Labour Coalition Government, partly due to a recommendation of Australia’s Productivity Commission.  A Liberal Government soon reverted to a case-by-case approach towards ISDS, excluding it from a new bilateral treaty with Japan (although ISDS is now available via CPTPP) and PACER Plus, while including ISDS in treaties with Korea, China, and (updated) Singapore. Australia’s most recent but as yet unratified treaties, notably with Hong Kong and Indonesia, also include ISDS.  What is distinctive in these various treaties providing for ISDS is how that choice is expressed.

This presentation will explore ISDS in Australia’s bilateral treaties. It will identify disparate provisions, the manner in which they are manifest, and the reasons for and significance of their adoption.  It will explore some perceived costs-benefits underlying such divergence over ISDS.  It will evaluate the rationale that Australian seeks to shield its outbound investors from the domestic courts of its treaty partner states, while protecting itself from excessive claims by their inbound investors.  It will critically evaluate the proposition that ISDS may be more expeditious and transparent than proceeding before domestic courts.  [For an earlier paper focusing on the Asia-Pacific, see here.]

Tang, Yi, “Applying PRC’s BITs in Hong Kong and Macao SARs: Contradictions Between the Chinese Government and Investment Tribunals”

In recent years, it is observed that the investor-state tribunals have more frequently encountered a difficult problem of the territorial application of investment treaties, especially bilateral investment treaties (BITs). Among all the investment treaty arbitration cases concerning the application of BITs concluded by the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the cases of Tza Yap Shum v Peru and Sanum Investment Ltd v Laos stand out due to the special status of China’s Hong Kong and Macao Special Administrative Regions (SARs). In these two cases, one key dispute is whether PRC’s BITs can be applied to Hong Kong or Macao SARs. And the tribunals and courts in both cases reached the conclusion that PRC’s BITs do apply to Hong Kong or Macao, which has presented a sharp contrast with the Chinese official stance. Against this background, this paper intends to analyze how and why the international investment tribunals’ decisions contradict from the Chinese official position. It will first examine the two controversial cases by teasing out the opposing arguments and standpoints, then it will analyze what might explain the confrontation between the positions held by the Chinese government and the investment tribunals respectively. What are the driving forces behind the two contradictory stances? This paper attempts to conduct a relatively comprehensive analysis on this issue by delving into the reasons from historical, legal, political and economic perspectives. This analysis hopes to offer an innovative prism through which we can gain some new insights into the question of applying PRC’s BITs to SARs. It is also of value to the future implications and policy suggestions as to what China should do to solve the current dilemma, and to prevent future confusion. 

Mbugua, Wilson, “Dispute Resolution in International and Bilateral Investment Agreements” (earlier draft paper with Shahla Ali at: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3168996)

Investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) claims have mainly centred on impairment of investments by the host state in banking, infrastructure development, mining, among other sectors. Intellectual properties as a form of investments are protected by a considerable number of bilateral investment treaties, however, they have rarely been invoked in ISDS claims until recently. This paper sketches the fabric and the structure ISDS in bilateral investment treaties and how it is applied in practice. Secondly, it will examine how arbitration tribunals have dealt with the subject of intellectual property rights by focusing on two standards of protections- expropriation and fair and equitable treatment. Lastly, the paper will conclude with a discussion on the criticism facing ISDS and possible paths for reforms.   

Huang, Jie (Jeanne), “Data Protection in Investment Arbitration: Privacy, Confidentiality and Transparency

Two recent cases, Tennant Energy v Canada and Elliott v. Korea, demonstrate that the booming domestic and regional data protection laws have brought real and significant challenges to investment arbitration. The unprecedented but unclear role of data protection in investment arbitration requires serious attention from both academic and practising communities. This paper intends to address four issues. Firstly, how to determine whether an investment arbitration is subject to a domestic or regional data protection law? Second, suppose that a domestic or regional data protection law (e.g. GDPR) should be applied to an ISDS, what are the similarities and differences between the concept of ‘privacy’ under the data protection law and the general assumption that arbitration proceedings are both ‘private’ and ‘confidential’? The third issue is the interplay between the immunity under public international law and the privacy obligation under a domestic and regional data protection law. Last but not least, may the transparency obligation under the UN Convention on Transparency in Treaty-based Investor-State Arbitration (now being considered by the Australian Parliament) conflict with the privacy obligation under a domestic or regional data protection law? If so, how to resolve the conflict?

New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region (3): What Future for ISDS?

After Australia’s general election held on 18 May 2019, the prospects for investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) and therefore investment chapters in free trade agreements (FTAs) remain unclear not only for Australia but also the wider Asia-Pacific region. This posting provides some backdrop and reiterates a proposal for a bipartisan (and bi-national) approach by Australia (especially with New Zealand) to more actively promote a “permanent investment court” (or at least some of its core features) as a compromise alternative to conventional ISDS, for its future treaties as well as in reviewing older ones. This should be not just in pending FTA negotiations with the European Union, which now already insists on such a court for resolving investor-state disputes (aiming also to develop a multilateral investment court), but also in (re)negotiations with other Asia-Pacific states. A version of this posting is with the East Asia Forum blog too.
This proposal will be tabled and hopefully discussed at the upcoming seminar at the University of Hong Kong, on 15 July, as part of a joint project over 2019 with USydney on “New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region“.

Continue reading “New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region (3): What Future for ISDS?”

Guest blog: Corporate (Mis)Governance in Malaysia (& Japan)

Written by: Dr Vivien Chen (Monash University) & Preeti Sze Hui Lo (USydney law student and CAPLUS intern)
[Introduction by Luke Nottage: A Nikkei article of 3 April 2019 highlights how activist investors are increasingly calling for shakeups of corporate boards across Asia, especially in Japan since 2014, but also China, Singapore, South Korea and Hong Kong. It also reports how the Asian Corporate Governance Association has downgraded Japan from 4th ranking in 2016 to 7th ranking in 2018, and upgraded Malaysia from 7th to 4th. Is that switch justified?
Perhaps Japan is being judged too harshly for the recent Toshiba and Nissan (Carlos Ghosn) scandals, or the 2012 Olympus saga, despite the country introducing new Stewardship and Corporate Governance Codes from 2015. Perhaps too much weighting is given in rankings or assessments for the numbers or proportions of independent non-executive directors on boards. This is despite mixed evidence about whether corporate performance has generally improved or other expected benefits have accrued as independent director requirements have become an increasingly popular reform across other Asian economies, as reviewed in the chapters on Australia and Japan in my 2017 co-edited book.
And what about Malaysia? Even the largest 100 listed companies, based on their formal disclosures, don’t score too well on the ADB-supported ASEAN Corporate Governance Scorecards – although they seem to be improving. Around 40 percent of all listed firms remain government-linked companies (GLCs), in sharp contrast to Japan (as illustrated in Figure 4 of this 2018 OECD report on Asian stock markets), but government ownership can be problematic especially when the same political party (like UMNO until last year) remains in power over extended periods. Some good news from a 2018 book by UMalaya Prof Edmund Gomez et al is that since the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997 there are far fewer appointments of (ex-)UMNO politicians to the boards of GLCs and the various government-linked investment companies or sovereign wealth funds that invest in them and other listed companies. Directors and CEOs are increasingly professionalised. The bad news is that many may still rely directly or indirectly on the Minister of Finance for appointments, and so might be expected (like good butlers!) to anticipate the Minister’s preferences. The risk of conflicted interests grows if the Minister of Finance is also the Prime Minister, as was the case for Dr Mahathir Mohamad after the AFC (1998-2003) and especially Najib Razak (2008/9-2018) until UMNO remarkably lost the general election last year. Part of the reason for that election loss was the collapse of 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Berhad), a sovereign wealth fund established by Najib when he became Prime Minister in 2009.
One guest blog posting below, by this semester’s CAPLUS student intern Preeti Lo, highlights some of the warning signs that all was not well with 1MDB, linking to her PDF timeline of key events in that scandal drawing partly on a book by Wall Street Journal authors (“The Billion Dollar Whale“, 2018). The other posting, by Monash University’s Dr Vivien Chen, outlines her forthcoming article on challenges afflicting corporate governance in Malaysia more broadly and especially when it comes to enforcing directors’ duties. They provide useful context to my ongoing research, supported by the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, extending to Malaysia (and Thailand and Cambodia) a previous analysis of the proliferation and realities of independent directors in Asia.]

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New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region (2): Japan, China, Hong Kong, Australia and Singapore

Here are some papers to be presented and discussed at a symposium on Monday 15 July at Hong Kong University, as part of a joint research project over 2019 with the University of Sydney Law School.

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New Frontiers in International Arbitration for the Asia-Pacific Region (1): HKU/USyd research project

The central administrations of the University of Hong Kong and the University of Sydney have provided A$17,000 each for this joint research project over 2019, centred around two conferences at HKU on Monday 15 July and at USydney on Monday 18 November. The lead co-investigators are respectively A/Prof Shahla Ali and Prof Luke Nottage. Below we set out the project’s Aims, Significance and Outcomes. Further updates are expected on this Blog.

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Asia’s Changing International Investment Regime: Sustainability, Regionalization and Arbitration – Book Review (Part III)

[Parts I and II of this book are reviewed in earlier postings.]
Asia’s Changing International Investment Regime: Sustainability, Regionalization and Arbitration, Julien Chaisse, Tomoko Ishikawa and Sufian Jusoh (eds),
Springer, 2017, xii + 260pp, ISBN 978-981-10-588, 120 Euros
Reviewed by: Luke Nottage and Ana Ubilava

Continue reading “Asia’s Changing International Investment Regime: Sustainability, Regionalization and Arbitration – Book Review (Part III)”

Asia’s Changing International Investment Regime: Sustainability, Regionalization and Arbitration – Book Review (Part II)

[Part I and Part III of this book are reviewed in earlier and subsequent postings]
Asia’s Changing International Investment Regime: Sustainability, Regionalization and Arbitration, Julien Chaisse, Tomoko Ishikawa and Sufian Jusoh (eds),
Springer, 2017, xii + 260pp, ISBN 978-981-10-588, 120 Euros
Reviewed by: Luke Nottage and Ana Ubilava

Continue reading “Asia’s Changing International Investment Regime: Sustainability, Regionalization and Arbitration – Book Review (Part II)”