Power in international trade politics: is ISDS a solution in search of a problem?

Andrew W. Reddie

Business and Politics, 2017

This article examines the controversial investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanisms in recent mega-free trade agreement. Below, I examine the origins of the ISDS concept and outline the controversy surrounding its use in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). Then, I provide a theoretical discussion that outlines both the exogenous and endogenous factors that contribute to the inclusion of ISDS provisions in international trade agreements. Focusing on the latter endogenous factors, I then argue that not all international trade agreements are the same and that, as such, it is possible to develop a typology of international trade agreement across two variables (the number of parties and relative power) that impact the appropriateness of including an ISDS provision. I test this typology against the empirical record. Finally, I discuss potential innovations to the ISDS provisions and market-based mechanisms that address the dual challenges of discrimination and expropriation that ISDS is designed to address.

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