Accommodating the public interest in international investment treaties: police powers, expropriation and treaty interpretation
18. 8. 2015 16:37
Kate Louise Amelia Mitchell
Project under University of Oxford
This MPhil thesis analyses the extent to which customary international law principles that protect the right of States to regulate in the public interest are accommodated within international investment treaties (IITs). The thesis focuses on the police powers doctrine, which acknowledges that States have the right to enact reasonable, non-discriminatory regulation that is aimed at the public interest and enacted in accordance with good faith and due process. Such regulation will not constitute an expropriation. The thesis explores the concept of 'police power', articulates the police powers doctrine and situates the doctrine within customary international law.
The thesis then examines how the police powers doctrine can be accommodated within IITs using the principles of treaty interpretation in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (VCLT). The police powers doctrine may be 'accommodated' in two ways: first, pursuant to Article 31(1) VCLT, by looking to the ordinary meaning of 'expropriation', and secondly via Article 31(3)(c) VCLT, which allows the police powers doctrine to be taken into account as a relevant rule of international law applicable between the parties. This approach is contrasted with the interpretation of annexures included in recent IITs, concluding that it is unlikely that these annexures provide greater accommodation than the proper application of the VCLT.
The conclusion of this thesis is that the principles of treaty interpretation allow the police powers doctrine to be considered when determining the meaning of an expropriation provision in an IIT. To this extent, the public interest is accommodated in IITs.
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