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Public International Law

Allen & Overy regularly advises on both contentious and non-contentious aspects of public international law, a field in which we are recognised as a leading practice.

Our clients are multinational corporations, sovereign States and international organisations, engaged in cross-border trade, projects and business cooperation.

Public international law is of increasing relevance to our clients, both in contentious and non-contentious matters. We regularly carry out the following types of work for our clients:

Public international law (Advisory)

  • Negotiating, drafting and acceding to treaties
  • Negotiating and drafting inter-governmental and host government agreements concerning cross-border trade, investment and cooperation
  • Cross-border project finance and infrastructure projects
  • Structuring cross-border investments
  • International investment law protection for investments abroad
  • Rights and obligations under international trade law agreements, international intellectual property law agreements, international environmental law agreements, and international human rights law agreements
  • International anti-corruption laws
  • Boundary disputes and rights to resources straddling borders
  • International sanctions
  • The immunity of sovereign States and state entities
  • Sovereign debt and restructurings

Public international law (Disputes)

  • International arbitration under bilateral investment treaties and multilateral investment treaties (in particular the Energy Charter Treaty) before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) and other international arbitral tribunals
  • Disputes before World Trade Organisation panels and the WTO Appellate Body
  • Disputes before World Intellectual Property Organisation tribunals

Recent examples of our work

Representative examples of our recent work include advising:

  • The Republic of Cuba in its challenge to Australia’s Tobacco Plain Packaging Act 2011 before the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The Act introduced stringent new measures requiring all tobacco products in Australia to be sold in standard dark green boxes and prohibited the use of logos, brand imagery and promotional text. Cuba is challenging the Australian legislation at the WTO on the grounds that it is in breach of various international treaties regarding trade and international property rights.  It is the first time that Cuba has challenged another country’s commercial legislation at the WTO. Of the matters currently pending before the WTO, the case has attracted the largest number of claimants. 
  • An African state on its negotiations with the European Union on a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
  • An Asian state on its potential accession to the Energy Charter Treaty.
  • The French Republic in connection with its brief as amicus curiae in support of Argentina’s petition for a writ of certiorari (judicial review) before the U.S. Supreme Court on pari passu clauses in the context of national debt restructurings in connection with the Republic of Argentina v. NML Capital, Ltd. litigation.
  • An EU Member State on issues of public international law, including treaty interpretation, in relation to the negotiation of the European Stability Mechanism treaty.
  • A Central Asian State on the drafting of a bilateral investment treaty that it was negotiating with a European counterparty.
  • An Asian State on its negotiation of two bilateral investment treaties with North American counter-parties.
  • Representing the Republic of Slovenia in an ICSID arbitration under the ECT and a bilateral treaty defending claims brought by Hrvatska Elektroprivreda, the national electricity company of Croatia. The dispute arose from the ownership and operation of a nuclear power plant in Slovenian territory that was constructed before the two countries became independent from the former Yugoslavia.
  • Representing the Republic of Poland in defending an investment treaty arbitration brought under the UNCITRAL Rules in the pharmaceutical sector. The investments that had allegedly been expropriated comprised numerous intellectual property rights. The tribunal dismissed the vast majority of claims and awarded the investors just a small fraction (less than 2%) of the amount claimed and left them to bear their own costs.
  • Advising an international oil company on the effect of the South China Sea boundary dispute on its potential investments in offshore oil fields.

Recognition for our work

“Expert investment treaty practice, with an outstanding track record in representing sovereign states before arbitral bodies. Also experienced in areas such as sanctions compliance, international human rights and energy disputes.” Public International Law, Chambers UK 2015

Sources say “One of the strongest BIT practices in London, and arguably in the world. They have an enormous amount of work.” Public International Law, Chambers UK 2015

“‘High-quality individuals with a good knowledge of the area.’” Public International Law, Chambers UK 2015

“A very strong practice.” Public International Law, Chambers UK 2014

“Allen & Overy LLP has a team of ‘very experienced and talented lawyers’.” Public International Law, Legal 500 UK 2013


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