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This Month in International Law - February 2019

US Supreme Court clarifies immunity of international organizations

The Court ruled that international organizations are immune from suit to the same degree that foreign governments are contemporaneously immune. Foreign-government immunity has narrowed since enactment of the International Organizations Immunities Act in 1945.

EU General Court annuls European Commission finding of state aid to Spanish football clubs

The clubs – Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid, and Pamplona – were permitted to remain non-profit organizations in 1990, when all other Spanish professional football clubs were converted to “sports public limited companies” taxed at a higher rate. The court found that the Commission had not proven an unlawful advantage.

International Court of Justice (ICJ) urges United Kingdom to relinquish control of Chagos Archipelago

The advisory opinion found that severance of the archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 unlawfully impeded decolonization and that the United Kingdom is obliged to cede control “as rapidly as possible.” The archipelago is home to the joint UK-US military base on Diego Garcia.

ICJ claims jurisdiction to rule on $2 billion US-Iranian frozen assets case

Iran filed suit in 2016 under the 1955 Treaty of Amity, following the US Supreme Court’s approval of the transfer of Iranian government assets to victims of terrorist attacks attributed to Iran. The ICJ held that the United States’ recent withdrawal from the treaty did not affect already-pending cases.

One step closer to EU-Singapore free-trade and investor-protection agreements

The European Parliament approved a free-trade deal that would eliminate most tariffs between the parties within five years and liberalize services markets. The final remaining hurdle is the European Council. A separate investment-protection deal – also approved by Parliament last month – requires member-state ratification to go into effect.

U.K. and Switzerland sign deal on post-Brexit tariff regime

The U.K. has signed a trade continuity agreement with Switzerland, building on their previous agreement under an EU free trade deal. As the deadline for Britain’s withdrawal from the EU looms, about 40 trade deals remain to be negotiated in order to continue once the withdrawal is in effect. The U.K also signed a deal with the United States this month, to continue the trade in wine and spirits.

European Parliament approves EU-wide system for screening foreign direct investment (FDI)

By promoting intra-EU coordination and allowing the European Commission to weigh in on proposed investments, the regulation aims to protect critical infrastructure. The context is skyrocketing FDI from emerging economies, “often through companies with state ownership or ties to governments.”

WTO will allow post-Brexit UK to remain in Government Procurement Agreement (GPA)

The UK will have to rejoin the GPA, but on terms that already govern its participation through the EU. The GPA, according to Bloomberg, “governs $1.7 trillion worth of annual public procurement opportunities.”

Israel will not renew Hebron observer force; United States blocks Security Council statement

The Temporary International Presence in Hebron was established in 1994 following an American-Israeli terrorist’s murder of 29 Palestinians at the Cave of the Patriarchs. The rejected Security Council statement would have expressed regret and concern over the move.

Netherlands will begin to recognize Gaza Strip and West Bank as birthplaces

Netherlands will allow people born prior to 1948 in what is now Israel to register their place of birth in certain Palestinian territories in official Dutch documents. The move is not intended to imply recognition of a Palestinian state, however, but to avoid liability in the European Court of Human Rights.

“Task Force” formed by International Council for Commercial Arbitration (ICCA) and International Bar Association (IBA) to provide guidance on data protection in international arbitration

The EU’s introduction in 2018 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) prompted creation of the task force. A draft guide for public comment is expected this month.

WTO declares China’s agricultural subsidies excessive

The ruling allows the United States to retaliate unless China brings its subsidies into line with WTO standards. However, the Trump Administration’s obstruction of appointments to the WTO’s Appellate Body may soon render that forum inoperative, meaning that a Chinese appeal could indefinitely delay the ruling’s effect.

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