The ‘Gänseliesel’ (Goose Girlis), a historical fountain erected in 1901, represents the most well-known landmark of the city of Goettingen.


When the Exception Overtakes the Rule: COVID-19, Security Exemption Clauses, and International Investment Agreements

Kayla Maria Rolland



In the trade and investment law regimes built in the post-war period, “security exemption clauses” were included within trade and investment agreements as a safety valve, permitting States to deviate from their commitments in the event that their security interests were implicated. Initially, these clauses were understood to be narrowly limited to instances of war and interstate conflict. With the rise of the national security state in the decades since, however, the concept of security interests has ballooned to encompass an ever-growing set of issues, with some fearing that the rules may become irrelevant. This has been particularly facilitated through “third generation” security exemption clauses and their inclusion of self-judging language. The COVID-19 pandemic in particular adds a new dimension to this phenomenon. As a case study analysis of the text of the Chile-Hong Kong, China SAR bilateral investment treaty (BIT) will demonstrate, it may be feasible for States to invoke security exemption clauses to justify measures taken in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in some contexts, particularly with third generation, self-judging security exemption clauses. The expanding notions of security exemption clauses have significant implications for the investor-State dispute system as a whole.



Download the full text as a PDF