A request for acceptance of the investment constitutes valid evidence of the investor’s consent to ICSID arbitration under Côte d’Ivoire’s Investment Code. This is the finding of the arbitral tribunal in an ICSID arbitration initiated by an Ivoirian company, Société Resort Company Invest Abidjan, and two French nationals, Stanislas Citerici and Gérard Bot, against the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire. The arbitration was initiated on the bases of the 2012 Investment Code of Côte d’Ivoire.
According to Article 20 of the Investment Code the investor’s consent to ICSID arbitration must be expressed at the time when the investment is made.
“Le consentement des parties à la compétence du CIRDI ou du mécanisme supplémentaire, selon le cas, requis par les instruments les régissant est constitué, pour la République de Côte d’Ivoire par le présent article, et exprimé expressément dans la demande d’agrément pour la personne concernée.”
The parties agreed that the investor’s consent to ICSID arbitration under Côte d’Ivoire’s Investment Code could not be expressed simply by filing a request for arbitration as is often the case under bilateral investment treaties (“BIT’s”.
The investors argued that a foreign national’s filing of a request for acceptance of the investment (“demande d’agrément”) was sufficient to manifest their consent to ICSID arbitration; whereas Côte d’Ivoire argued that the foreign investor must expressly record its consent to ICSID arbitration in the request for acceptance itself. Both parties agreed that no express mention of ICSID arbitration is to be found in the actual request for acceptance filed by the investors and that there was no express reference to the possibility of ICSID arbitration in the model request for acceptance published by the responsible national authority of the hosting State.
The arbitral tribunal composed of Zachary Douglas, Yves Fortier and Kaj Hobér found that the investor expressed its consent to ICSID arbitration under Côte d’Ivoire’s Investment Code in its request for acceptance which was accepted by the State authorities.
“154. … a valid and binding arbitration agreement for the purpose of Article 25 of the ICSID Convention came into force when the ‘Centre de Promotion des Investissements de Côte d’Ivoire’ approved the ‘demande d’agrément’ filed by the Claimants. Article 20 of the Code records the Respondent’s prospective consent to ICSID arbitration but a valid and binding ICSID arbitration agreement comes into force only if two conditions are satisfied: first, the putative investor must file a ‘demande d’agrément’ and, second, that ‘demande d’agrément’ must be approved by the Centre de Promotion des Investissements.”
The arbitral tribunal also noted that the lack of clarity of Article 20 regarding the investor’s consent to ICSID Arbitration under Côte d’Ivoire’s Investment Code can be corrected by Côte d’Ivoire so that prospective investors will be in no doubt as to manner in which they are to convey their consent to ICSID arbitration. Differently from a BIT, the investment code is a unilateral act that can be easily modified by the host State alone.