Between constraint and empowerment: International investment law and good governance in developing countries

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

In this seminar, Josef Ostřanský will present novel findings about and conceptualisations of the ideational and material interactions between the international investment law (IIL) regime and national governance.

The three principal rationales offered for the international investment treaty regime have been: (i) economic development (ii) depoliticisation and (iii) the promotion of the rule of law and good governance. While the first and, to a lesser extent, the second rationales have been subject to various empirical, econometric and statistical analyses, the third rationale - the ‘good governance rationale’ – has drawn much less attention from scholars. In theory, investment treaties may through their substantive obligations induce domestic reform. According to this rationale, investment treaties´ impact will eventually spill over from the area of governance relating only to foreign investors to the improved governance for everyone in the host state.

This seminar will draw on extensive fieldwork in four states – Argentina, Czech Republic, India and Mexico – carried out in the context of a comparative socio-legal research project studying impacts of investment treaties and arbitration on national governance. Using methods inspired by legal ethnography allowed capturing uses and effects of IIL on national governance that the conventional rationale as well as its critiques obscure. The seminar data show that uses and effects of IIL are much more varied and highly dependent on the institutional, political and social contexts in which IIL-related arguments intervene. Despite important differences among the studies countries, Josef has identified that IIL operates as both constraining as well as empowering force in various governmental and social processes, practices and policies.

About the speaker
Josef Ostřanský is a Visiting Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet). He specialises in international economic law and international dispute settlement. In his recent work, he explores uses of various socio-legal approaches and different theoretical traditions in the analysis of the mentioned subject-matter areas.