From North-South Divide to Private-Public Debate: Revival of the Calvo Doctrine and the Changing Landscape in International Investment Law

Shan, Wenhua | January 1, 2007

After dominating Latin American states for over a century, the Calvo Doctrine has been widely described as “dead,” particularly in the wake of the global tide of economic liberalization that began in the 1990s. However, some recent moves within and beyond Latin America suggest that this principle is not dead, but on the resurgence. The “Revival of Calvo” phenomenon signals a change of direction in international investment law: neo-liberalism no longer dominates international investment law-making, and a more balanced, and perhaps also a more conservative and nationalistic approach, is gaining ground. This Article explores these recent events and analyzes to what extent the Calvo Doctrine is returning, as well as how the ideology of international investment law is changing. The Article proceeds in four parts. Parts I and II examine the events signaling the revival of the Calvo Doctrine within Latin America and the changing trend in international investment law beyond. Part III explores the future of the international investment regime by critically examining both the Calvo Doctrine and the neo-liberalist investment regime. Part IV concludes by arguing that the main theme in international investment law-making is being shifted from a “North-South Divide” towards a “Private-Public Debate.”