Marc Firestone of Philip Morris International responds to issues about the tobacco firm’s legal action in Uruguay. Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA
Despite emphasising the role of the United Nations in sustaining justice and respect for obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law, Alfred de Zayas (How can Philip Morris sue Uruguay over its tobacco laws?, 16 November) fails to add that the UN defines the rule of law as a principle of accountability and equality for “all persons, institutions and entities, public and private … constant with international human rights, norms and standards”.
There is no inherent tension in defending basic rights of the private sector although defending human rights. There is practically nothing that threatens the globe order of justice as feared by the author. By contrast, what would be “devastating” to public order is if fairness and equal justice have been applied selectively. To paraphrase Orwell, the result would imply that all are equal, but some are more equal than other people.
The investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) mechanism is not “little known” or “buried” in trade agreements. Investment protection is an act of sovereignty that results from negotiations between states. Missing from the author’s account of our arbitration with Uruguay is that the Uruguayan senate approved the investment treaty with Switzerland soon after careful scrutiny, and with confidence that its provisions aligned with Uruguay’s domestic law.
The implication that our case has “chilled” governments from enacting tobacco manage guidelines is erroneous. Uruguay itself has banned the show of tobacco goods at retail points of sale, and several other tobacco policy measures have been implemented around the world given that we brought our claim in Uruguay in 2010.
A reminder to calm the rhetoric: PMI has brought only two ISDS situations among over 600 reported instances, and we did not bring them lightly. The Uruguayan government knows that we choose amicable resolutions to litigation and that we remain obtainable for constructive discussion with authorities in Uruguay and elsewhere.
Nations have executed much more than 3,000 investment protection agreements. This reinforces the bedrock principle of international law that investors are entitled to fair and equitable therapy. Governments that respect the rule of law have absolutely nothing to worry from the possibility of independent, objective evaluation of regulatory measures.
Senior vice-president and common counsel, Philip Morris International
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