As anti-business rhetoric continues to emerge in various intergovernmental forums, USCIB Vice President for Trade and Financial Services Shaun Donnelly led a small but vocal international business delegation at last week’s annual High-level International Investment Agreements (IIAs) Conference at the UN Conference on Trade and development (UNCTAD) in Geneva.
As with many UNCTAD events, this three-day investment conference was dominated by government, UN and international organization experts, NGO activists and academics. Donnelly was joined by USCIB’s partner BDI, the leading German business association, as the only business voices among over 200 delegates.
Issues on the UNCTAD agenda included reforming investment agreements, alternatives to Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) to resolve disputes, rebalancing rights and obligations between investors and host governments and alternative strategies to fix IIAs.
UNCTAD gave Donnelly a prominent spot in the opening plenary and keynote slots on two major breakout groups as well as in the closing plenary. In addition to rebuting some anti-IIA and anti-ISDS political diatribes, Donnelly emphasized some basic themes, including that it is private investors who drive growth, jobs and progress. “The IIA protections do matter to investors,” emphasized Donnelly. “Strong ISDS provisions are critical to ensure implementation of investment agreements. Investment agreements which earn rave reviews from governments, academics and UN bureaucrats but which don’t work for business won’t yield investments and all the benefits which flow from private investment flows,” he added.