Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

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Great Britain, the United States, Canada, and Belgium made representation to the Spanish government on behalf of Barcelona Traction in 1948 following the declaration of bankruptcy. Originally, Great Britain was concerned only with the interests of British bondholders, but it subsequently supported the Canadian claims. The United States submitted its representation upon the request of the Canadian government and took no active part in the negotiations. The United States merely attempted to promote eventual settlement. Canada pressed its claim through official notes from 1948 to 1952. However, the enthusiasm with which these attempts were made waned early and led to a gradual diminishing of efforts which culminated in withdrawal from the affair in 1955. As early as 1951 the Canadian Secretary of State for External Affairs was reported as having told the Spanish Consul in Canada that "Canadian interests in this case are so slight that it is of little interest to us. Belgium was much more aggressive in pursuing its complaint, as was expected since the property taken was owned predominately by Belgians. After making ineffectual formal complaints and a suggestion of arbitration, Belgium unilaterally referred the matter to the International Court of Justice in 1962. In 1964 the action was suspended, pending further action in Spanish courts, but was reopened in 1966. In reaching a decision in 1970, the Court avoided the merits and denied Belgium standing to sue. The Court held that in the absence of a small number of exceptional circumstances, no nation, other than that in which an enterprise is incorporated, may represent a cause of action before the I.C.J. arising out of an injury to that corporation. Barcelona Traction, Light and Power Co. Case (Second Phase), [1970] I.C.J. 3, 9 INT'L LEGAL MATERIALS 227 (1970).