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Department of Economics

Standing in International Investment and Trade Disputes


International investment agreements employ dispute settlement procedures that differ markedly from their counterparts in trade agreements. A prominent and controversial difference arises with respect to the issue of "standing": Who has the right to complain to adjudicators about a violation of the agreement? While trade agreements limit standing to the member governments (state-to-state dispute settlement), investment agreements routinely extend standing to private investors as well (investor-state dispute settlement). We develop parallel models of trade and investment agreements and employ them to study this difference. We find that the difference in standing between trade and investment agreements can be understood as deriving from the fundamentally different problems that these agreements are designed to solve. Our analysis also identifies some important qualifications to the case for including investor-state dispute settlement provisions in investment agreements, thereby offering a potential explanation for the strong political controversy associated with these provisions.