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UNCTAD’s World Investment Reports 1991–2015: 25 Years of Narratives Justifying and Balancing Foreign Investor Rights

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This article examines an influential narrative of foreign investor rights and the international investment regime. It draws on twenty-five of the World Investment Reports (WIRs) issued by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (1991–2015). It argues that the justifications provided by these reports have contributed to shaping a global commodity conception of property. These WIRs describe foreign investor rights following a narrative of wealth maximisation by transnational corporations (TNCs), and focus on a TNC-assisted restructuring of host states and local communities. Since the mid-2000s, these reports have balanced this narrative because of the increasing consensus that international investment treaties unduly constrain regulatory space. Ultimately, however, this article shows that the recent WIRs promote an approach to public regulation that is not inconsistent with a global commodity conception of property.

Affiliations: 1: Durham Law SchoolUnited Kingdom


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