The New Gold Standard? Empirically Situating the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Investment Treaty Universe

In: The Journal of World Investment & Trade
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  • 1 The Graduate Institute, Switzerland and World Trade Institute, Switzerland
  • | 2 European University, Russian Federation and The Graduate Institute, Switzerland

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The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been labeled a ‘new, high-standard trade agreement’. But just how ‘new’ and ‘high’ are the standards it sets? To answer that question we combine traditional legal analysis with computational text comparisons situating the TPP in the universe of international investment agreements (IIAs). We find that the TPP investment chapter offers few truly novel features — 81% of its text is taken from prior American treaties. Compared to the majority of IIAs, however, the TPP goes beyond existing practice: it sets high levels of investment protection, explicitly safeguards host state sovereignty and establishes a sophisticated investment arbitration architecture. Nevertheless, the TPP is unlikely to revolutionize the IIA universe. Its innovations are open to circumvention given that older treaties remain in force parallel to the TPP. Moreover, as disagreement persists with Europe and BRICS countries, the TPP is unlikely to serve as a template for future multilateralization.

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    Lise Johnson and Lisa Sachs, ‘The TPP’s Investment Chapter: Entrenching, Rather than Reforming, a Flawed System’ Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment Policy Paper (November 2015).

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    In 2014, Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, for instance, stated that: ‘Obviously, the Trans-Pacific Partnership is just another U.S. attempt to build an architecture of regional economic cooperation that the USA would benefit from.’ See US Seeks to Create Economic Cooperation for Its Own Benefit — Putin on TPP (6 November 2014) <> accessed 10 December 2015.

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