Bridging the Gap
Frankfurt Investment and Economic Law series
Edited by Stephan W. Schill, Christian J. Tams and Rainer Hofmann
Chapter 4: Overcoming obstacles with opportunities: Trade and investment agreements for sustainable development
‘Sustainable development’ has been recognised as a key global policy objective by all countries of the world through a progressive series of international policy debates and declarations over the past three decades. The concept draws attention to the potential long-term sustainability of development, especially whether such development is able to respect social, economic and environmental priorities in a balanced and coherent manner. Just as other features of the ‘development agenda’ addressed in this volume, sustainable development does not always go hand in hand with investment protection. The social, economic and environmental priorities sustainable development seeks to promote can clash with investor rights recognised under investment treaties. In many ways, much of the recent discourse on ‘investment and …’ disciplines can be read in that manner: as a story of conflict, collision and the quest for hegemony. The present contribution adopts a different approach. Rather than looking at confrontations and collisions, it approaches the relationship between investment protection and sustainable development constructively. It highlights options for international investment law to take account of international and domestic environmental priorities and socio-economic development imperatives. This no doubt requires a willingness to situate investor rights within a wider normative context, to interpret investment agreements (especially early ones emphasising investor rights only) in a systemically integrated way, and to allow for reform from within. However, as the subsequent sections clarify, all this is, not only called for, but also possible.
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