Suffolk Law will again host more than 50 teams from all over the world at the 9th annual Foreign Direct Investment International Moot Court competition (FDI Moot) this November. While other moot court contests explore scenarios concerning international law, the FDI Moot is the only one to tackle legal questions surrounding international investment treaties—agreements between two or more countries with provisions that protect investors doing business in other signatory countries, while balancing the State’s right to regulate in the public interest.
The one-of-a-kind competition was co-founded by Suffolk Law Professor Christopher Gibson and Christian Campbell of the Center for International Legal Studies.
Students, including Suffolk's team, competing this November no doubt wrestled with the workload of an actual case, though the circumstances of the mock scenario they’ve been assigned borrow from the pages of Game of Thrones; a terrible non-curable disease known as Greyscale turns its victims’ skin from smooth to scaly, threatening the well-being of thousands of working-age individuals in the fictitious country of Mercuria.
In the moot court scenario, a public health crisis emerges as Greyscale infections grow to epidemic proportions. A foreign company (Atton Boro) has the exclusive patent to produce a pharmaceutical drug (Valtervite) that reverses the disease’s effects. After the National Health Authority of Mercuria enters into a long-term agreement to buy the drug from Atton Boro, the government changes its position and terminates the agreement, while exercising a compulsory license over the investor’s patent rights in order to create generic drugs at a cheaper price to get them in the hands of more citizens.
“While the disease is from Game of Thrones, the problem simulates some of the most interesting and controversial issues that can come up in the field of international investment law,” Gibson said.
Key legal frameworks for the competition are the thousands of international investment treaties, which offer protection to investors against government action that might result in a wrongful damage to, or the unlawful use of, an investor’s investment in a given country, or violations of other protections, Gibson said. In most agreements, investors are granted certain rights to sue governments using international arbitration to protect their rights.
The earliest modern international investment treaty was signed between Germany and Pakistan in 1959. The practice would later come into widespread use in the 1980s, and accelerate through the 90s and 2000s. Today, there are over 3,000 such bilateral and multilateral investment and trade agreements around the world, each with their own complicated and varying provisions.
“I would say it’s one of the most important and controversial areas in international law today,” Gibson said.
While increasingly widespread, their adoptions often aren’t without controversy: Trade and investment agreements came up often during the 2016 election, with President Trump calling NAFTA “the worst trade deal ever.” Democrats on the left, like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, also expressed concern that these kinds of agreements give multinational corporations too much power to sue governments, even when they enact reasonable regulations for public benefit.
But why wouldn’t they be controversial? These trade deals materially affect entire nations, influence public policy, and raise important questions about the role and scope of international law in our increasingly global society — reasons too that Gibson thought students should have the opportunity to examine them in the FDI Moot competition.
“We saw the evolution in this area, as more companies were bringing claims against governments,” he said. “We knew there was no international competition for law students that would simulate disputes in this area of law.”
While the location for the contest’s final round often rotates internationally — “we didn’t want this to be an American-centric competition,” Gibson said — this year, students will be returning to the Suffolk Law campus in Boston for the FDI Moot oral arguments from Nov. 2nd to 5th.
In addition, more than 60 volunteer arbitrators from around the world will be on-hand to judge the students and pick a winning team. Students argue both sides of the case – for the investor and for the government.
Participants receive their moot court scenario in February, work through the summer on two 35-page briefs, and prepare their oral arguments for the upcoming final phase. That hands-on experience is “the beauty and challenge of a moot competition,” Gibson said. “We want to prepare students to be better and more thoughtful lawyers.”
“It’s very much like a real case — a big case, where you have to do a lot of work and important preparation, for months, be prepared to submit your legal papers, and actually argue your case before a tribunal,” he said. “Many students will say a moot court is the most demanding, yet rewarding, activity they do while in law school.”
The 9th Annual Foreign Direct Investment International Moot Competition will take place on the Suffolk Campus from Nov. 2 to Nov. 5, click here for more information on the schedule of events.