North America experienced initially slow growth in 2016 but recovered by the end of the year. Canada's economy had a rocky start to 2016, with a GDP growth rate of only 1.3% by the second quarter. Commentators suspect the slow growth was caused largely by the forest fires in Alberta that lowered oil output and exports. The growth rate rebounded in the third quarter, rising to 3.5% with oil production normalizing. Economists predict continued growth in 2017 and 2018 with a rise in non-energy exports.
In the United States, the GDP growth rate was at 1.9% by the end of 2016, half a percentage point lower the growth rate of 2.4% in 2015. The highest rate of growth in 2016 occurred in the third quarter (3.5%), rapidly increasing from a shaky first quarter (0.8%) and rising second quarter (1.4%). The dip from 3.5% to 1.9% in the fourth quarter was caused in part by growing imports, lower exports, and lower oil prices resulting in diminished energy production and development. The United States also experienced an 11% growth in flow of foreign direct investment. Growth expectations are tempered for 2017, with commentators challenging the feasibility of President Donald J. Trump's prediction that the growth rate will rise to 4%. However, economists remain optimistic that the growth rate will rise to the mid to high 2% range in the second half of 2017 and 2018.
The number of new ICSID arbitrations in North America in 2016 increased from previous years. While the period from 2012-2015 saw approximately five to seven new arbitrations being initiated each year, 11 arbitrations were registered in 2016 that involved North American countries as either claimants or respondents. Although the extractive industries have traditionally been the dominant sector for arbitrations involving Canada and the United States, other industries also see multiple pending disputes. Five oil, gas and mining arbitrations were initiated in 2016 and one each in the agriculture, fishing and forestry, construction, information and communication, cotton processing and trading, gaming, and tire and rubber products sectors. Eight arbitration disputed were concluded in 2016—two brought by Canadian claimants and six brought by United States claimants. Five concluded cases were in the oil, gas and mining sector and one each in the tourism, services & trade, electric power & other energy.
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