Many of the issues that are today part of the discussions surrounding international investment agreements were first dealt with when governments sought to negotiate a United Nations Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations (and various related instruments) almost 40 years ago. The Code was meant to establish a multilateral framework to define, in a balanced manner, the rights and responsibilities of transnational corporations and host country governments in their relations with each other. This article looks at the origins of these negotiations, the underlying interest situations of the participating country groups, the experience of related negotiations, the actual negotiations of the Code, the reasons for the failure of the negotiations, the current situation, and factors driving change. The article concludes with lessons learned from the Code and related negotiations. These lessons may be of interest to current efforts to improve the international investment law and policy regime.
In1978the United Nations General Assembly convened the United Nations Conference on Restrictive Business Practices which held two negotiating sessions in November-December 1979 and April 1980. The negotiations were completed in 1980 during the Administration of President Jimmy Carter and the Code was adopted by the General Assembly at the end of 1980.
In1977the first opportunity to submit cases TUAC submitted 11 cases and governments 2 cases.
Reviews took place in197919841991 2000 and 2011.
See (1986) Reporter (n 95) 20.
Only BITs still in effect in2013. Courtesy UNCTAD Secretariat.
In2013total sales of foreign affiliates amounted to an estimated USD 35 trillion while world exports were USD 23 trillion; see UNCTAD (n 146) 24.