The ICJ and the Myanmar Investment Commission co-hosted a workshop on “Bilateral Investment Treaties and the Role of the MIC” in Yangon on 28 July 2014.
The ICJ also organized a separate workshop the next day on “Bilateral Investment Treaties and the Role of the CSOs” for civil society organizations (CSOs).
In total, more than 100 senior government officials, ministry staff and civil society activists attended the workshops.
Discussions at the workshops focused on regional and international experiences concerning Bilateral Investment Treaties and their impact on government regulatory capacity in the areas of human rights and environmental protection.
Daniel Aguirre and Vani Sathisan, ICJ’s International Legal Advisers (Myanmar) facilitated the discussions.
In opening the workshop on the 28th of July, the Deputy Minister from the Ministry of Finance, Dr. U Maung Maung Thein (photo), remarked that Myanmar has signed 8 Bilateral Investment Treaties with various countries and with more to come in the near future, the government was hoping to enhance their legal knowledge on this issue from ICJ’s workshop.
In delivering the keynote address for the event, Professor Aung Tun Thet, President’s Economic Adviser and member of the Myanmar Investment Commission, explained the role of the MIC in regulating investments and the challenges in integrating investment policies into their development strategies and incorporating sustainable development objectives in investment policies.
During both the workshops, Carlos Lopez, ICJ’s Senior Adviser on Business & Human Rights, discussed how investment agreements could contribute to sustainable development.
He underscored ICJ’s concern with giving too much power to investors to arbitrate at the expense of the government’s right to formulate public interest policies that protect and promote the rule of law and human rights.
International guest speakers included investment arbitration and sustainable development experts, such as Antony Crockett, litigator and arbitrator at Herbert Smith Freehills (Hong Kong), Andrea Saldarriaga, Lead of the Centre for Investment Law & Human Rights Project at the London School of Economics and Political Science, as well as Sanya Reid Smith, Legal Advisor and Senior Researcher from the Third World Network.
Engaging discussions focused on the need to build an effective judicial system to ensure proper assessment of public policy concerns and prevent national courts being circumvented in favour of international arbitral tribunals; the need for an open consultation on the risks of signing up to Bilateral Investment Treaties and implications for public policy; the apparent link between foreign direct investment and Bilateral Investment Treaties, and the lessons that the government of Myanmar could learn from regional and international experiences on investment arbitration and the impact on health care, environmental and human rights policies.
In closing the workshop, Secretary of the Myanmar Investment Commission, Director General of the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration, U Aung Naing Oo, expressed his gratitude and appreciation to the ICJ for an important discussion on this topic.
Both the MIC and ICJ expressed their willingness to continue working on issues relating to investment agreements and strengthening the Myanmar government’s regulatory capacity to implement public interest policies to benefit all in the long term.
Daniel Aguirre, International Legal Adviser (Myanmar): daniel.aguirre(a)icj.org
Vani Sathisan, International Legal Adviser (Myanmar): vani.sathisan(a)icj.orgNewsWeb stories