China, Bangladesh and Brazil lead the list of countries where companies with turnovers of over $1bn report significant concerns about the rule of law, according to 301 of those companies’ decision-makers.

These are the preliminary findings of research conducted for the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law and international law firm Hogan Lovells, revealed by Bingham Centre director Sir Jeremy Jowell QC on the final day of the Global Law Summit.

Drawing a close link between the success of trade and development, Jowell said: ‘It is amazing that there is any resistance to the inclusion of rule of law goals in [the UN’s] post-2015 development goals.’

Lord Mandelson (pictured), former EU trade commissioner, used the session to attack those who opposed the inclusion of controversial investor-state dispute resolution settlement clauses in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). ‘This debate has come out of nowhere. Whipped up by NGOs and taken on by unions,’ he said.

In a broad defence of the role of trade treaties in guaranteeing fair treatment of foreign investors, Mandelson said: ‘In the development of any country there is a tipping point to be reached when institutions are in a position to overcome the prerogatives of powerful and unaccountable forces,’ he said. Countries including Russia and ‘some EU countries’ had only achieved that tipping point ‘imperfectly’ he added.

The challenge for countries such as the UK in making that case, Mandelson said, was that as ‘exporters of capital’ they had an interest in open markets and the rule of law. Trading partners did not see the benefits so readily. 

Catherine O’Regan, former South African constitutional court justice, drew attention to the plight of small-business owners in countries with an imperfect commitment to the rule of law. ‘In the absence of the rule of law, livelihoods suffer,’ O’Regan said.

‘This marginalises people from the global economy.’