International Investment Agreements and the Escalation of Private Power in the Global Agri-Food System

  • Anna Clare Bull
  • Jagjit PlaheEmail author
  • Lachlan Gregory
Original Paper


Using food regime analysis, this paper critically analyzes how corporate actors amass, secure and apply power in the global agrifood system through International Investment Agreements (IIAs). IIAs are a key enabler of increasing corporate power in the agrifood system. We focus on three sets of investment provisions in IIAs: (a) the stringent enforceability mechanism of the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) system, (b) the expansion of the concept of expropriation, and (c) limitations or prohibitions on host countries to impose performance requirements on foreign investors. We argue that these provisions compromise fairness in the international economic system. Attracted by promises of technology transfer, economic growth and employment, host states often prioritize policies that favor foreign investors even if such policies compromise domestic policy space. We provide analysis and examples of escalating corporate power at different stages of the industrial and transgenic model of agriculture.


Fairness International Investment Agreements Corporate food regime 



Bilateral Investment Treaty


EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement


Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership


European Union


Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Foreign direct investment


Free Trade Agreement


General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade


Genetically modified


International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes


International Investment Agreement


Investor-state dispute settlement


North American Free Trade Agreement


Transnational corporation


Trade and Investment Related Measures


Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights


United Kingdom


United Nations


United Nations Commission on International Trade Law


United Nations Conference on Trade and Development


United States of America


United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement


World Trade Organization



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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anna Clare Bull
    • 1
  • Jagjit Plahe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lachlan Gregory
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Management, Faculty of Business and EconomicsMonash UniversityCaulfield EastAustralia

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