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The Negotiations of the United Nations Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations: Experience and Lessons Learned

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image of The Journal of World Investment & Trade

Many of the issues that are today part of the discussions surrounding international investment agreements were first dealt with when governments sought to negotiate a United Nations Code of Conduct on Transnational Corporations (and various related instruments) almost 40 years ago. The Code was meant to establish a multilateral framework to define, in a balanced manner, the rights and responsibilities of transnational corporations and host country governments in their relations with each other. This article looks at the origins of these negotiations, the underlying interest situations of the participating country groups, the experience of related negotiations, the actual negotiations of the Code, the reasons for the failure of the negotiations, the current situation, and factors driving change. The article concludes with lessons learned from the Code and related negotiations. These lessons may be of interest to current efforts to improve the international investment law and policy regime.

Affiliations: 1: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, Columbia Law School; The Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York, USA,


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