During a recent visit to India (24th – 27th January) as a chief guest of the Republic Day celebration, Brazilian President Jair Messias Bolsonaro sketched an ambitious plan to revitalisation their faltering economy. This new strategic partnership will expand cooperation in key sectors of the economy such as oil, gas, and mining, while it was setting the target of USD 15 billion in bilateral trade by 2022. While approaching to WTO against India for extending support to her sugarcane farmers, Brazil penned investment cooperation and facilitation treaty. This is Brazil’s 10thand India’s 4thbilateral investment agreement since both nations had adopted their Model Bilateral Investment Treaty. Previously, India has managed to conclude bilateral investment treaties with Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Cambodia after scrapping down all 83 existing bilateral investment treaties. The object and purpose of this short write-upare to critically analyse and compare the new Brazil-India Cooperation and Facilitation Treaty (Brazil-India BIT) with the Model BITs of India and Brazil. It will be discussed who deviates from Model BIT and to what extent to sign the investment agreement. Moreover, the author will evaluate whether both countries have compromised their interest to strike a deal and who wins the deal or to what extent.
The Definition of Investment
Definition of investment is one of the essential elements in any investment agreement as this is the first thing a disputant has to establish before an investment tribunal to avail the protection. Brazil-IndiaBIT under Article 2.4 incorporates the meaning of investment. Here we see that enterprise-based definition is adopted where an enterprise is taken together with all of its assets. Both Brazil and Indian Model BITs have adopted the same enterprise-based definition approach. The BIT definition of investment is coupled with some other characteristic such as the commitment of capital, objective of establishing a lasting interest, expectation of gain or profit, and the risk assumption. In this, the BIT commensurate with Indian Model BIT as Brazil BIT lacks these elements in the definition of investment. A slight difference remains with the Indian Model BIT as the BIT does not require the “significance for the development of the host-state” characteristic in investment. Prof. Ranjan rightly pointed out that the requirement “investment should be significant for the development of the host-state” is a subjective requirement which is very much challenging for the foreign investor to prove the same before an investment tribunal.
Novelty in Expropriation Clause
A novelty of the new Brazil-India BIT is its expropriation clause which completely excludes indirect expropriation from the scope and purview. Article 6 only talks out “Direct expropriation” as the heading of the article proposes. Article 6.3 incorporates a provision which clearly states that the treaty only covers direct expropriation. The direct expropriation takes place in the time of nationalisation or when expropriation is made directly through formal transfer of title or when a downright seizure is made. Thus Brazil-India BIT does not cover indirect expropriation of investment. After a thorough reading of both Model BIT, it is observed that Brazilian Model BIT does not have any provision related to indirect expropriation while Indian Model BIT covers the same under Article 5.3. Thus, this can well be said that this novel idea of excluding indirect expropriation, Brazil wins while India deviated its Model BIT. As this rule allows investors to bring indirect expropriation claims on imperceptible grounds. Brazil has been critical to indirect expropriation for some time. According to the Brazilian approach, this provision allows foreign investors to make abusive claims and shrink regulatory spaces of the host-state, which helps host-state to protect public interest such as public health, environment, public security etc. Since direct expropriation of foreign investment is very much rare in the modern economic affair, it is unexpected that the Indian side departed from its earlier practice. Even recently concluded Indian BIT with Belarus provides rules of indirect expropriation under article 5.3A thorough reading will reveal that not only those BITs provide for protection from both ends but also laid down formulae of determining indirect expropriation which could be a great guide for investment tribunals. Host-states regulatory powers which emanate directly from its sovereignty puts a prodigious test for the investors. The regulatory measures are taken in public interest frequently creates hardships and might upset investment adversely. Although there is a possibility of abusing power under the blanket of indirect expropriation, the entire removal of the system of indirect expropriation is not a welcome step. In the words of professor Ranjan, “leaving indirect expropriation outside the scope of the BIT creates a yawning gap in the protection of foreign investment.”
Prevention and Settlement of Dispute Clause – A New Horizon
Settlement of dispute is a vital portion of any investment agreement. It is observed that Brazil-India BIT used the phrase “dispute prevention and settlement” instead of the word dispute settlement only. Settlement of dispute comes under Part IV Institutional Governance, Dispute Prevention and Settlement. This highlights that both countries emphasise on the prevention of disputes resorting to the principle “prevention is better than cure”. Ostensible novelty is established in this BIT as Brazil has been very critical to the Investor-State Dispute Settlement System (ISDS) which gives an investor a right to approach an investment tribunal directly against a State. There is no provision of ISDS in this new Brazil-India BIT. Article 13 calls for the creation of the Joint Committee for the administration of this Treaty comprising of government representatives of both parties. This Joint Committee shall oversee the implementation and execution of the treaty, coordinate and facilitate, and resolve the dispute amicably between the parties. In pursuant to Article 14 Each party has to establish National Focal Point or Ombudsman who will be responsible for following recommendations of Joint Committee and consult with other party’s Ombudsman. Concisely, Ombudsman shall work closely with the other party’s Ombudsman, Joint Committee, and relevant government authorities at the state and local level to address differences and helping in preventing disputes. A unique dispute prevention mechanism is provided under Article 18. Under this article, if a party considers that a specific measure adopted by the other party constitutes a breach of this treaty, the party may initiate dispute prevention procedure within the Joint Committee. If the Joint Committee fails to resolve the dispute within a specified time of two months, the party may submit the dispute to the arbitration in according to article 19. Article 19 envisages State to State Dispute Settlement (SSDS) mechanism. This article says when dispute prevention mechanism fails to address and resolve the differences between parties, either party may refer the dispute to arbitration tribunal under this article. Article 19.2 says in explicit language that the purpose of the arbitration is to decide on the interpretation of the treaty or the observance of the terms of the treaty by a party. Furthermore, it spells out that the tribunal does not have any power to award compensation. Indian Model BIT provides both ISDS and SSDS mechanisms while Brazilian Model BIT excludes ISDS procedure, instead they devise SSDS system of dispute settlement. Thus, it is more than clear that India compromised its stand and agreed to adopt the SSDS system put forward by Brazil. However, in the absence of ISDS, the foreign investor has to depend entirely upon the home-state. If home-state does not wish to protect the interest of the investor, the investor will have no remedy available to the foreign investor under general international law.
Non Discrimination Clause
Non-discriminatory clauses in BIT protects investors from losses which may incur due to war or other armed conflicts, civil strife, national emergency etc. If any investment is adversely affected due to any above-stated reasons the state has to compensate the investor. The BIT stipulates the ways of compensation. Typically, it includes restitution, indemnification, and other forms of compensations. Article 7 of the Brazil-India BIT incorporates such rule. It says, if investment suffers losses in the territory of other party due to war or other armed conflicts, revolution, state of emergency, civil strife or any other similar events, shall enjoy restitution, indemnification, or other forms of compensations. Moreover, the clause attached with MFN clause. So, the adversely affected investor has the option to avail the most favourable treatment under the MFN clause, which is awarded to a third-party than the treatment the host-state accords to its own investors. Both Model BITs have featured this non-discrimination clause. The Indian Model BIT only includes National Treatment clause not MFN clause whereas Brazilian Model BIT incorporates MFN clause. Thus, once again, India compromised its stand to Brazil and agreed to embrace the MFN clause to article 7 of Brazil-India BIT. However, one may find this kind of attachment of the MFN clause is standard protocol and nothing new to the investment lawyers.
Commonalities with Indian Model BIT
Although most of the BITs do embrace MFN clause as a standard procedure, the Brazil-India BIT does not include the same. Brazil conceded not to include MFN clause although its Model BIT provides for the same under article 6. There is no provision of the MFN clause in the Indian Model BIT. Taxation related regulatory measures have been put outside the purview of the treaty under article 20 of Brazil-India BIT. The same is offered by Indian Model BIT under article 2.4 with a minor variance that host-state’s decision on the impugned measure is taxation related, is final and non-justiciable. Whereas article 20 of the Brazil-India BIT does not use the word non-justiciable as such. Both Brazil-India BIT and Indian Model BIT have adopted General Exceptions clause under articles 23.1 and article 33.1 respectively. One may find that article 23.1 of the Brazil-India BIT is a reproduction of article 33.1 of Indian Model BIT. In terms of Security Exceptions clause, both Brazil-India BIT and Indian Model BIT have encompassed under article 24 and article 33 respectively. Again the Security Exceptions clause of Brazilian-Indian BIT is influenced from Indian Model BIT. Article 24 is almost a reproduction of article 33 of the Indian Model BIT with an insignificant alteration in article 24.3.
After analysing Brazil-India BITs with Model BITs, the present author opines that newly concluded BITs between two nations rests mostly on Brazilian Model BIT. Although two countries have compromised on certain aspects. As it does contain SSDS system excluding the ISDS system of dispute settlement and the indirect expropriation clause. We witness the Brazil-India BIT is based on the principle of dispute prevention rather than the prevalent notion of dispute settlement. It is designed in such a way that it will be productive in preventing disputes more effectively. This unique dispute prevention tactic needs appreciation. The modern economic affairs hardly witness nationalisation or the direct takeover of foreign investment. As a result, in the absence of rules of indirect expropriation, it could well be expected that a certain degree of foreign investment protection would be weakened. After White Industries Arbitration case, asluicegate was opened for foreign investors’ claims which put at risk Indian government. Recently, India had terminated a close to 60 investment agreements which were based on the investor-centric approach of 2003 Indian Model BIT. In 2016, India published its new model BIT and started negotiation with other states, which is state-centric. After thorough analysing of the provisions, one can certainly reach to the conclusion that Indian Model BIT2015 gives precedence to host-state’s right to regulate over investment protection. This new Brazil-India BIT is even more placed on host-state’s sovereign right to regulate. As Indian Model BIT has been compromised most of the time while inking the Brazil-India BIT, the question remains to see in future BIT negotiations; whether India sticks to its own Model BIT or pay heed to the terms advances by the counterparts; hesitatingly or readily.
The Economic Conundrum of Pakistan
The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) is due to convene on 20th September 2021. The Monetary policy Committee (MPC) will be announcing its policy rate after retaining it since March 2020. As the world deals with the uncertainty of the delta variant along with the dilemma between inflation and growth, it is a plenary to watch as Pakistani policymakers would join heads to decide the stance on the economic situation. However, the decision would be a tough one. Primarily because the mixed signals could either lead to burgeoning inflation and subsequent financial deterioration or they should guide the central bank to strangulate the growth prematurely. Either way, the policymakers would have to be cautious about the degree of inclination they lean to each side of the argument – economic contraction or growth with inflation.
A poll conducted by Topline Research shows that about 65% of the financial market participants expect status quo; the MPC to maintain the policy rate at 7% to further accommodate economic growth. Pakistan has barely mustered a 4% growth rate after the contraction of 0.4% last year. In this regard, Mr. Mustafa Mustansir, head of Research at Taurus Securities, stated: Visible signs of demand-side pressure are still quite weak. In another survey conducted by Policy Research Unit (PRU): a policy advisory board of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), 84% of the market participants believe there will be no change in the policy rate. The sentiment implies that the researchers and the business community don’t expect a rate hike in this week’s policy meeting.
However, the macroeconomic indicators paint a bleak picture for Pakistan’s economy: warranting a tougher policy response. The external trade figures released by the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) project a debilitating situation for the national exchequer. According to the data, Pakistan’s trade deficit has increased to $7.5 billion in the first two months (July-August) of the fiscal year 2021-22. The deficit stands at $4.1 billion: 120% higher than the same period last year. Due to the accommodative policies implemented by the government of Pakistan, the trade deficit has already climbed 26% up to the annual target of $28.4 billion, set in the fiscal budget 2021-22. Despite excessive subsidies, the bi-monthly exports have only grown by 28% to stand at $4.6 billion. And while it is an increase of nearly a billion dollars compared to the same months in the preceding year, the imports have more than perforated the balance of payments.
During the July-August period, the imports have grown by a whopping 73% to stand at $12.1 billion: 22% of the annualized target. What’s more worrisome is the fact that despite a free-float currency mechanism, the exports have failed to turn competitive in the global market. According to the data released by PBS, Pakistan’s exports have dropped from their previous levels for three consecutive months. And despite a 39% net currency depreciation in the past three years, the exports continue to drift sluggish around the $2 billion/month mark. Yet, the imports are accelerating beyond expectation: clocking a 95% increase last month alone. Clearly, something is not working.
Moreover, while the forex reserves with the State Bank stand at a record high of around $20 billion, the rapid depreciation in the rupee is gradually damaging the financial viability of Pakistan. According to Mettis Global, a web-based financial data and analytics portal, the rupee recently slipped to its all-time low of 168.95 against the greenback. While the currency reserves are at their peak, the rupee continues its losing streak as the State bank has refrained from intervening in the forex market to artificially buoy the currency. Primarily because the IMF program stands contingent on letting the rupee float and find equilibrium. As a result, the rupee is touted to breach the 170 rupees against the US dollar mark by next month. The bankers around Pakistan have urged the State Bank for an intervention to put an end to “abnormal volatility in spite of increased reserves.” However, an intervention seems highly unlikely as the SBP Governor, Dr. Reza Baqir, already warned regarding currency devaluation in the last policy meeting: citing supply constraints, debt repayments, and increased imports as primary reasons for the temporal slump.
Nonetheless, almost 10% of the market participants, according to the survey, expect a rate hike of 50 basis points in the policy rate to hedge against inflation. Furthermore, analysts at Topline Securities expect a hike of 25 basis points to counter “vulnerabilities in the current account and control inflationary pressures.” Regardless of the prudent beliefs in the market, however, a few players actually believe that a rate cut of 50-100 basis points is plausible in the meeting. They argue that while the Consumer Price Index (CPI) – a national inflation measure – refuses to let down, the core inflation of Pakistan has dropped perpetually down to 6.3% in August. A stratum of the business community, therefore, also believes that the policy rate should be gradually brought down to 5% to match the regional dynamics.
I somehow find this notion ironic, as the government has already doled billions of dollars in subsidies, provided lucrative loans, and slashed taxes periodically. Yet, the exports have stayed relatively redundant. While it may not be the most effective time to hike the policy rate and tighten the monetary policy, in my opinion, a cut in the policy rate would be detrimental – catastrophic for the current account and incendiary for prevailing inflation.
Global Revolution in the Crypto World: Road to Legalization
The raging popularity of virtual currencies is hardly unheard of in today’s day and age. If not by the damning crackdown in China, price swings in cryptocurrencies – especially bitcoin – are definitely deemed perpetual and inherent: unlikely to go away. And while the volatility does bring along a unique thrill to retail investors, the experienced pundits of the financial world are expectedly skeptical. Regardless of the apparent discomfort and resistance to tap into the pool of virtual currencies, policymakers across the world are aware that the future is digital. Therefore, while digital fiat seems to be the direction of most developed economies to counter the decentralized giants, the economic gurus are preparing to harness the mania on another front as well – before the craze overtakes the globe.
The first – and most popular – cryptocurrency is undoubtedly bitcoin. In the aftermath of China’s crackdown on mining activities, bitcoin lost more than half of its valuation. However, acceptance around the world in the past few weeks has helped the currency to buoy past the slump. Bitcoin currently stands at a market cap of $863.8 billion: flirting with the $46,000 mark. Naturally, the rest of the crypto world flows in tandem as fanatics have placed bets for the currency to breach the $50,000 psychological mark again in the following months. However, the rally is largely attributed to the blooming acceptance by governments around the world; something the officials were wary of to avoid risks and uncertainty. However, I still don’t understand the change of perception given the market is more volatile than ever.
Last week’s headlines were all about El Salvador and its adoption of bitcoin as a legal tender. The fiasco that followed was hardly a surprise. Though the incident bolstered the crypto critics, the event projected nothing that was a mystery before the launch. A glitch in the virtual wallet, called “Chivo Wallet,” was one of the countless impediments that had already been warranted as risky by economists around the globe. While the problem was resolved in a matter of hours, the price of bitcoin nosedived by 19% from the 4-month high of $53,000. President Nayib Bukele boasted about “buying at a dip” yet overlooked a crucial aspect from a broader perspective. He failed to realize that a minor glitch in his small nation was significant enough to send the currency spiraling; that in mere hours, billions of dollars were wiped from the global market. All because the app couldn’t appear on the designated platforms for a few hours.
What happened in El Salvador is a vital example to analyze. The resulting confusion is exactly why a passage of regulation is being placed. If the domestic and international markets are to rely upon cryptocurrencies in the near future, then the need for a detailed framework becomes even more amplified.
Recently, Ukraine became the fifth country in weeks to legalize bitcoin. However, while the Ukrainian parliament adopted a bill to legalize the cryptocurrency, regulations are put into place to handle its precarious and volatile nature. Unlike the loose move by El Salvador, Ukraine did not facilitate a rollout of bitcoin as a form of payment. Moreover, the parliament has refrained from placing bitcoin on an equal footing with Hryvnia – Ukraine’s national currency. Primarily because adding another currency prone to unprecedented and wild swings in value could prove complex in policymaking matters including drafting fiscal budgets and taxation planning. And while Kyiv is pushing to lean further into bitcoin to gain more access to global investment, the authorities are prudent. Therefore, unlike the brazen entry by El Salvador, the Ukrainian authorities are underscoring a strategy to learn about the crypto world before bitcoin is etched into Ukrainian law forever.
Meanwhile, the United States is proving rather stringent against the rise of bitcoin – and the crypto world – as nightmares of another financial crisis are caging a progressive adoption. The lawmakers are already vigilant to put braces on the market before it blooms beyond control. The Infrastructure Bill recently passed by the senate provides a hint of direction being adopted by the US legislators. The tax provision, estimated to collect $28 billion over a decade, has been placed as a regulation of the crypto market that stands at a valuation of $2 trillion. The Treasury directives are driven to mobilize the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to tax crypto brokers while monitoring mandated reporting requirements. The goal is obvious: gradually tighten the screws before regulating the uncharted territory as any other capital market. However, the bill is purposefully vague regarding market actors deemed as brokers under the new law. Naturally, the frenzy follows as miners are left scrambling to define the meaning of a broker in an extremely complex and unorthodox market mechanism. It is clear that prominent lawmakers, like Senator Elizabeth Warren, are the main driving forces to put a leash on the emerging market.
Furthermore, the US Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) has been vocal about Treasury’s long-awaited intervention in the crypto market. Allegedly the virtual currencies have come across as a key tool for tax evasion in the United States. Therefore, much of the lobbying to amend the tax provision in the infrastructure bill is to limit the strictness of application rather than simplifying the vague terminologies. Moreover, the Treasury Department has also been active in discussing the financial stability of Stablecoin – crypto assets pegged to the US dollar and other fiat currencies. While extreme volatility is not a risk in this scenario, the Federal agencies – particularly the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) – have been keen to set tougher regulations over the market with more than $120 billion in circulation. The move has been swift since the tax provision made its way into the Senate debate. The main intent to regulate stablecoin – particularly Tether – is to harness the market, primarily because the sector acts as an unregulated money market mutual fund holding massive amounts of corporate debt. A plunge in price is enough of a spark to send ripples through the fixed income markets: posing a financial threat to the entire market. Thus, the FSOC is touted to be mobilized soon to probe and regulate the market as it continues to grow.
The crypto world has been cited by global lenders such as IMF as a haven for money laundering and tax frauds. Such tags could lead to negative credit ratings and ineligibility to gain investment and aid packages, especially when debt-ridden countries like El Salvador dabble along without any fixed legal framework. However, with broader regulation, like the steps taken by the US and Ukraine, the risk could be minimized. Another area is to initiate with experienced investors before gradually easing market restrictions for retail investors. A prime example is Germany which recently allowed institutional investors to invest as much as 20% of their holdings in bitcoin and other crypto-assets. While the portion still congregates to billions of dollars, such deft institutional investors are trained enough to manage and monitor trillions of dollars in a vast array of capital markets. Moreover, such large-scale institutional investment firms already have strict regulatory requirements and thus, by default, are bound to consciously maintain conservative holdings.
In my opinion, the crypto market is the financial future of the technological utopia we aspire to build. The smart choice, therefore, is to learn the system down to its spine. Correct the loopholes and irregularities while monitoring experienced professionals participating in an open market. Sketch and amend the legalities and a financial framework along the way. And gradually let the market settle as second nature.
CPEC: Challenges & Future Prospects
Global economy paradigm is shifting from the West to the East while China is torch bearer in this context with it’s master stroke OBOR project. The beauty of this unique project is that it provides a new trade corridor and a new route to at least 60 countries. If we make an educated guess, then about 80% of the world population would get benefit from this project. This project can be divided into “Silk Road economic belt” and Maritime silk road”. For disbursement of funds, five financial institutions are opened so that the complete burden should not fall on China. Now it has been a proven fact that the US, few Western countries and India are lobbying and conspiring against the OBOR project.
The most important project of this initiative is CPEC as it gives China access to the most important geo-strategic location of Gwadar that had always been dream of Russia and NATO for their strategic, military and economic interests in the region. The only project which gives landlocked countries access to the sea. CPEC certainly can be game changer due to its potential of creating mass industrial productivity, exports, and job creation not only for Pakistan but for entire South Asian region.
Due to various factors, there are always chances that mistrust may prevail among Pakistan and China, which can have a direct impact on Pakistan’s economy. The economy plays a fundamental role in the development and strengthening of any country, but unfortunately, Pakistan was unable to stabilize this sector for decades. As soon as the situation becomes better, another incident of unrest happens. Attacks like the Dasu hydropower plant in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa or like Serena Hotel Quetta are preplanned efforts of our enemies like India to destabilize the project. Although, it has been accepted by Chinese think tanks on various occasions that the security situation has improved in Pakistan during the recent few years.
Luckily, due to the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, Indian investment is also dying. There is no doubt that the economic stability that Pakistan will achieve after the completion of CPEC cannot be digested by an eternal enemy like India. India is intensifying its covert operations against CPEC, as its discomfort is growing day by day with the cozying Pak-China relations. Modi’s government believes that once operational, CPEC will reduce its sphere of influence in Central Asia, IIOJ&K, and Afghanistan. The terrorist network formulated in Afghanistan to create unrest in Pakistan under the garb of diplomatic activities has also been jeopardized. As CPEC passes through Gilgit-Baltistan which India claims as a disputed territory but their claim was rejected out rightly by Pakistan and China. Now India may try to reinstate its sleeper cells inside Pakistan to disrupt CPEC.
CPEC in particular offers a win-win situation for participating nations and it has a strong component of social development, poverty alleviation, and demographic uplift, unlike similar programs offered by other international donors. CPEC would not impact its balance of payments of Pakistan at any stage. The payment schedule is very relaxed. It’s about geo-economics and the establishment of a non-exploitable economic system. Another point is that CPEC is a transparent project with all its details present on its websites. The projects of CPEC are not only confined to specific areas but its network is present in the whole of Pakistan.
Although, it’s correct that Pakistan has a risky security environment, but Pakistan has taken various positive steps in this regard like raising two “Security Divisions” in Pakistan Army, incorporating special paramilitary forces, increasing intelligence apparatus, and improving local police networks.
There are eight main core areas linked with CPEC which are ‘integrated transportation system’, ‘information network infrastructure’, cooperation in ‘energy related’ fields, ‘trade and industrial parks’, ‘agricultural development and poverty alleviation, ‘tourism’, ‘social development and non-government exchanges’ and lastly ‘financial cooperation’. CPEC is now attracting other countries around the world who are also expressing their desire to join it.
In present circumstances, the CPEC projects must be completed as soon as possible so that Pakistan’s geographical location can be truly exploited. Our narrative building part is weaker in International media as India and other lobbies are floating a huge bulk of anti-CPEC stories with fake facts and figures, we have to give proper rebuttal and our side of the story must be backed with verified facts and figures. Another point to be focused on is that a prosperous Balochistan would strengthen CPEC’s foundation. This is a real game-changer and we have to engage maximum countries of the world in this project to get moral, social, and financial support.
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