Sunday, January 10, 2016

Symposium: The Age of Mega-Regionals: TPP and Regulatory Autonomy in International Economic Law

The second biennial symposium of the Global Economic Law Network will take place May 19-20, 2016, at Melbourne Law School. The theme is "The Age of Mega-Regionals: TPP and Regulatory Autonomy in International Economic Law." Here's the idea:

The successful conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (‘TPP’) negotiations in October 2015, and the much-awaited public release of the treaty text in November 2015, represent a defining moment in trade policy and regulation. The depth and breadth of the agreement, as well as the diversity of its 12 parties in terms of both geography and development, pose a challenge to both traditional free trade agreements and to the future of the Doha Development Agenda in the World Trade Organization (‘WTO’), notwithstanding the conclusion of the Nairobi Package in December 2015. At the same time, the Bilcon decision against Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement may also represent a watershed in international investment law. As both investment patterns and litigation scenarios change, concerns about regulatory space, inconsistency and incoherence are multiplying. The European Commission’s proposal for an investment court system reflects these concerns for a key player in the international investment system.

Mega-regionals such as the TPP and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (‘TTIP’) provide one way of harmonising and reforming trade and investment protections, taking greater account of sovereign policy objectives and offering an opportunity to terminate or replace older-style, less nuanced treaties. As global tariffs drop, can mega-regionals deal with the increasingly significant regulatory barriers without sacrificing regulatory autonomy? Can trade and investment agreements in general get the balance right?

Australia offers a unique vantage point for considering these issues, given its inclusion in both the TPP including the United States and the ongoing negotiations towards the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (‘RCEP’) including China, as well as its joint leadership of the Trade in Services Agreement (‘TiSA’). Australia has also brought issues of regulatory autonomy in international economic law into the international spotlight due to its world-first standardised tobacco packaging laws, against which the investment claim by Philip Morris was recently dismissed and the claims by four countries continue in the WTO.

At the symposium in May 2016, speakers and participants will engage in in-depth debate and discussion concerning a range of matters related to the TPP, other mega-regionals, and regulatory autonomy in international trade and investment law more broadly. Sub-topics will include Asia-Pacific integration, investor-state dispute settlement, public health, climate change, fisheries subsidies, labour standards and labour migration, public choice theory, state-owned enterprises, financial regulation, prudential measures, taxation law and policy, telecommunications services, and the evolving treaty law and practice of individual countries including Australia and the United States.