The United States is currently in the process of ratifying new Trade Promotion Agreements ("TPAs") with three Latin American countries: Colombia, Peru, and Panama. These TPAs not only seek to increase trade between the United States and these countries by eliminating tariffs and other barriers to trade, they also aim to promote investment between the parties by providing certain substantive protections to investments made in one state party by investors of the other state party, and establishing special dispute settlement mechanisms for investment disputes.
Specifically, these TPAs allow investors to settle investment disputes with the host state through international arbitration through the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) (either under the ICSID Convention and the ICSID Arbitration Rules if both States are parties to the ICSID Convention, or through the ICSID Additional Facility Rules if only one of the States involved is a party to the ICSID Convention), or through ad hoc arbitration under the arbitration rules of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL).
The final texts of the TPAs have already been signed by the US Trade Representative and the governments of the respective countries, and are currently being submitted to the US Congress for its approval. These final texts incorporate certain requirements of the bipartisan agreement on trade policy reached by the US administration and congressional leadership on May 10, 2007 (the "Bipartisan Trade Agreement"). In compliance with the Bipartisan Trade Agreement, the TPAs now include core international labor standards and certain environmental protection standards, as well as new provisions on investment, government procurement, intellectual property, and port security.
The US Congress is continuing to consider the Peru and Panama TPAs. The outlook for Colombia may be less optimistic. Colombia recently agreed to incorporate the standards set forth in the Bipartisan Trade Agreement, but some in Congress have raised concerns about Colombia's alleged history of violence against trade union members.