Farm by Zach Stern (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Farm by Zach Stern (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)


The Trouble With the TPP, Day 44: Canada’s Terrible ISDS Track Record

The Trouble with the TPP has discussed how the agreement’s investor-state dispute settlement provisions do not meet the standard set by the Canadian government in CETA, do not address key concerns over policy making as illustrated by the Bilcon case, and raise enormous risks as demonstrated by the ongoing Eli Lilly dispute over Canadian patent law. This final ISDS post points another problem for Canada with ISDS rules: our track record is terrible.

According to the UNCTAD dispute resolution database, Canadian investors lodged 39 claims between 1998 and 2016 using ISDS provisions found in trade agreements and bilateral investment treaties. With all those claims, Canada has only won three times: a 2013 mining case against Kyrgyzstan, a 2011 mining case against Mongolia, and a 2009 mining case against Venezuela. The record is even worse in claims involving NAFTA as Apotex lost in 2008, 2009, and 2012; Canadian Cattlemen lost in 2005,  Grand River lost in 2004, Glamis Gold lost in 2003, Thunderbird lost in 2002, ADF lost in 2000, Methanex lost in 1999, Mondev lost in 1999, and Loewen lost in 1998. Canadian companies just doesn’t seem to win NAFTA claims.

By contrast, Canada has lost multiple NAFTA cases. These include Myers in 1998, Pope & Talbot in 1999, and Mobil Investments in 2007. Moreover, there is ongoing risk associated with current cases. In addition to the Eli Lilly case, CEN Biotech is seeking nearly $5 billion in a NAFTA case filed against Canada last year over a refusal to grant a medical marijuana licence, Windstream Energy is demanding US$522 million over suspension of a wind farm project, and Mesa Power wants almost $1 billion for government measures related to renewable energy. Osgoode Hall law professor Gus Van Harten has examined the impact of the wins and losses, concluding that the ISDS provisions contribute to a regulatory chill.

Further, Van Harten has tracked the size and wealth of foreign investors who have brought claims and received compensation due to ISDS. His key findings:

Our main findings are that the beneficiaries of ISDS, in the aggregate, have overwhelmingly been companies with more than USD1 billion in annual revenue – especially extra-large companies with more than USD10 billion – and individuals with more than USD100 million in net wealth. ISDS has produced monetary benefits primarily for those companies or individuals at the expense of respondent states. Incidentally, we also found that extra-large companies’ success rates in ISDS, especially at the merits stage, exceeded by a large margin the success rates of other claimants. It was evident that ISDS has also delivered substantial monetary benefits for the ISDS legal industry.

The data helps explain why the U.S. is a major proponent of ISDS provisions, but makes it difficult to see why the Canadian government would support TPP ISDS rules given that history tells us it will do little for Canadian companies and may result in enormous liability for taxpayers.

(prior posts in the series include Day 1: US Blocks Balancing Provisions, Day 2: Locking in Digital Locks, Day 3: Copyright Term Extension, Day 4: Copyright Notice and Takedown Rules, Day 5: Rights Holders “Shall” vs. Users “May”, Day 6: Price of Entry, Day 7: Patent Term Extensions, Day 8: Locking in Biologics Protection, Day 9: Limits on Medical Devices and Pharma Data Collection, Day 10: Criminalization of Trade Secret Law, Day 11: Weak Privacy Standards, Day 12: Restrictions on Data Localization Requirements, Day 13: Ban on Data Transfer Restrictions, Day 14: No U.S. Assurances for Canada on Privacy, Day 15: Weak Anti-Spam Law Standards, Day 16: Intervening in Internet Governance, Day 17: Weak E-commerce Rules, Day 18: Failure to Protect Canadian Cultural Policy, Day 19: No Canadian Side Agreement to Advance Tech Sector, Day 20: Unenforceable Net Neutrality Rules, Day 21: U.S. Requires Canadian Anti-Counterfeiting Report Card, Day 22: Expanding Border Measures Without Court Oversight, Day 23: On Signing Day, What Comes Next?, Day 24: Missing Balance on IP Border Measures, Day 25: The Treaties With the Treaty, Day 26: Why It Limits Canadian Cultural Policies, Day 27: Source Code Disclosure Confusion, Day 28: Privacy Risks from Source Code Rules, Day 29: Cultural Policy Innovation Uncertainty, Day 30: Losing Our Way on Geographical Indications, Day 31: Canadian Trademark Law Overhaul, Day 32: Illusory Safeguards Against Encryption Backdoors, Day 33: Setting the Rules for a Future Pharmacare Program, Day 34: PMO Was Advised Canada at a Negotiating Disadvantage, Day 35: Gambling With Provincial Regulation, Day 36: Why the TPP Could Restrict Uber Regulation, Day 37: Breaking Digital Locks for Personal Purposes, Day 38: Limits on Canadian Digital Lock Safeguards, Day 39: Quiet Expansion of Criminal Copyright Provisions, Day 40: Mobile Roaming Promises Unfulfilled, Day 41: ISDS Rules Do Not Meet the Canada’s New “Gold” Standard, Day 42: The Risks of Investor-State Dispute Settlement, Day 43: Eli Lilly Is What Happens When ISDS Rules Go Wrong)


  1. I’m confused. I don’t understand why this is accepted.

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  3. Pingback: The Trouble With the TPP, Day 50: The Case Against Ratifying the Trans Pacific Partnership - Michael Geist