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Investment Treaties, Investor-State Dispute Settlement and Inequality: How International Rules and Institutions Can Exacerbate Domestic Disparities

Working Paper #306

Lise Johnson, Lisa Sachs

Paper  407kb pdf

Over roughly the past four decades, government officials from around the world have been erecting a framework of economic governance with major–but under-appreciated–implications for intra-national inequality. The components of this framework are thousands of bilateral and multilateral treaties designed to protect international investment. In many jurisdictions, the treaties have been concluded without public awareness or scrutiny or even much discussion or analysis by government officials – including those officials responsible for negotiating the agreements (Poulsen 2015) – and without an adequate understanding of how these agreements could affect intra-national inequality. Long imperceptible, the size and power of this framework for economic governance has increasingly become apparent. And governments continue to expand and entrench the framework through the negotiation of several new bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the United States, the agreements China is negotiating with the United States and European Union, and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement being negotiated by sixteen countries throughout Asia and the Pacific.

About the Authors

Lise Johnson
Investment Law and Policy
Columbia Center on Sustainable Development

Lisa Sachs
Columbia Center on Sustainable Development

Publication Information

Type Working Paper
Program -
Posted 01/12/18
Download 407kb pdf