Supernational Law

44 Pages Posted: 30 Sep 2016

Date Written: September 27, 2016


Should the United States continue to enter into free trade agreements containing sovereign commitments to resolve regulatory disputes with qualifying multinational corporations before international arbitral tribunals? This question has gained public prominence due to the vocal opposition of Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Mr. Donald Trump to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), denouncing it as disastrous and corrupt. Public outcry has focused in particular on the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism included in the treaty. Public criticism submits that ISDS suffers from a fatal systemic asymmetry — it favors the profit-interests of multinationals over the public policy concerns of the host states in which these multinationals invest.

As this Article demonstrates, existing academic literature on ISDS tends to confirm this asymmetry. The prevalent ISDS literature is descriptively incorrect in this regard. This oversight is caused by a significant blind spot in the ISDS research perspective: the literature focuses exclusively upon the expectation interests of multinationals arising out of investment transactions. The Article demonstrates that this focus is descriptively untenable.

Supernational Law proposes an alternative to the expectation interest model prevalent in the current literature: ISDS does not focus upon investor expectancy, as currently theorized, but protects the reciprocal reliance interests of states as well as multinational investors. An ISDS process focused upon reliance interests of states and non-state actors imposes meaningful obligations on all parties to investment transactions. These obligations are part of a legal process mediating between state-to-state international law and commercial transnational law norms. By protecting reciprocal reliance interests of states and multinationals, ISDS emerges as a constitutive component for the success of global public-private cooperation. This change in perspective demonstrates how ISDS can assist both states and multinationals in harnessing market mechanisms to achieve development policy goals.

Keywords: International Law; International Dispute Resolution; Investment Law; Investor State Dispute Settlement

Suggested Citation

Sourgens, Freddy G., Supernational Law (September 27, 2016). Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN:

Freddy G. Sourgens (Contact Author)

Washburn University - School of Law ( email )

1700 College Avenue
Topeka, KS 66621
United States

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