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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 include:

Energy Charter Treaty

Energy Charter Treaty

An Asian state on its potential accession to the Energy Charter Treaty.
North American counter-parties

North American counter-parties

An Asian State on its negotiation of two bilateral investment treaties with North American counter-parties.
A Central Asian State

A Central Asian State

A Central Asian State on the drafting of a bilateral investment treaty that it was negotiating with a European counterparty.
EU Member State

EU Member State

An EU Member State on issues of public international law, including treaty interpretation, in relation to the negotiation of the European Stability Mechanism treaty.
International oil company

International oil company

Advising an international oil company on the effect of the South China Sea boundary dispute on its potential investments in offshore oil fields.
Republic of Slovenia

Republic of Slovenia

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.
Republic of Poland

Republic of Poland

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.
The French Republic

The French Republic

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 African Estate

An African Estate

An African state on its negotiations with the European Union on a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement.
The Republic of Cuba

The Republic of Cuba

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. 

News & insights

Publications: 29 NOVEMBER 2019

Distorting mirrors: UK sanctions and Brexit

The UK’s various sanctions regimes are currently very strongly correlated, although not completely aligned, with those of the EU. This position arises, in part, from the direct applicability of certain EU laws within EU Member States (e.g. via EU regulations). Much of this EU law would cease to apply within the UK should the UK leave the EU without any new agreement being established to govern the future EU-UK relationship.

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Publications: 18 NOVEMBER 2019

Sustainable finance: the EU taxonomy

Sustainable development and climate change were placed firmly back on the international agenda in 2015. In September that year, governments around the world, under the auspices of the UN, committed to 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to guide international action on economic, social and environmental targets. A few months later, in December, 195 countries signed the Paris Agreement and thus committed to keeping global warming to well below 2°C and to pursuing efforts to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre industrial levels.

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Publications: 11 NOVEMBER 2019

Understanding CETA

An introduction to the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

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Publications: 30 MARCH 2018

The Court of Justice of the European Union finds the arbitration provision in The Netherlands-Slovakia BIT incompatible with EU law

On 6 March 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (the Court) delivered its judgment in Case C-284/16, Slovakia Republic v Achmea B.V., declaring that the investor-State arbitration provision in the bilateral investment treaty between The Netherlands and Slovakia (the BIT) is incompatible with EU law.  The Court did not follow the Advocate General’s Opinion issued on 19 September 2017, which reached the opposite conclusion. This was previously reported on here.

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Recognition