India against EU, Canada-proposed dispute settlement at WTO

New Delhi, Jan 23 (IANS) India has opposed an informal proposal by the EU and Canada for a global investment pact with an investor-to-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism at the WTO by which corporates can take governments to international arbitration for resolution of disputes, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Monday.

“We rejected it completely. We want investments to be a bilateral thing…we do not believe in making investments a subject of multilateral disputes,” Sitharaman told reporters here.

The issue came up at an informal meeting of key World Trade Organisation (WTO) members on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos last week.

Sitharaman opined against the “contentious” ISDS mechanism, which is part of a bilateral agreement between the EU and Canada. EU nations and Canada want other WTO countries to agree to this multilateral mechanism to resolve investor disputes.

“There is no way, we will have investment treaty in which companies can take the sovereign or even the regional governments to court. Anything with regard to investments, we wanted to be settled by the domestic laws and courts, and only after that appeal outside,” she said.

Noting other WTO members, including Argentina and Brazil, are also opposed to ISDS, the minister said: “So at this stage, to have this template for a multi-lateral approach to investment may be immature.”

In this connection, at a BRICS arbitration conference here last year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had urged the group of emerging economies to engage for exploring the setting up of arbitration centres for use by the grouping as well as by non-BRICS countries.

Pointing to how some centres, particularly in the developed world, had monopolised the international arbitration process, he said: “Many countries felt that the awards in these arbitrations are loaded against the emerging economies.

“It is, therefore, is important to develop arbitration capabilities, capacity building and our own jurisdiction centre.”

Sithraman on Monday said that India asked the members for detailed discussions on WTO issues among the groups before they meet in Paris in June.

India wants a resolution on providing safeguards to poor farmers and a permanent solution to the public food stock holding issue, she added.–IANS