Bilateral investment treaty

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A bilateral investment treaty (BIT) is an agreement establishing the terms and conditions for private investment by nationals and companies of one state in another state. This type of investment is called foreign direct investment (FDI). BITs are established through trade pacts. A nineteenth-century forerunner of the BIT is the friendship, commerce, and navigation treaty (FCN).[1]

Most BITs grant investments made by an investor of one Contracting State in the territory of the other a number of guarantees, which typically include fair and equitable treatment, protection from expropriation, free transfer of means and full protection and security. The distinctive feature of many BITs is that they allow for an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, whereby an investor whose rights under the BIT have been violated could have recourse to international arbitration, often under the auspices of the ICSID (International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes), rather than suing the host State in its own courts.[2] This process is called investor-state dispute settlement.

The world's first BIT was signed on November 25, 1959 between Pakistan and Germany.[3][4] There are currently more than 2500 BITs in force, involving most countries in the world.[5] Influential capital exporting states[citation needed] usually negotiate BITs on the basis of their own "model" texts (such as the Indian or U.S. model BIT).[6][7]


NGOs have spoken against the use of BITs, stating that they are mostly designed to protect the foreign investors and do not take into account obligations and standards to protect the environment, labour rights, social provisions or natural resources. Moreover, when such clauses are agreed upon the formulation is legally very open-ended and unpredictable.[8]

By country


United States


  1. ^ See W. Michael Reisman et al.,"International Law in Comparative Perspective" (2004), p. 460.
  2. ^ See Jarrod Wong, "Umbrella Clauses In Bilateral Investment Treaties: Of Breaches of Contract, Treaty Violations, and the Divide Between Developing and Developed Countries In Foreign Investment Disputes", George Mason Law Review (14 Geo. Mason L. Rev. 135) (2007).
  3. ^ "Germany - Pakistan BIT (1959)". Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  4. ^ "International Investment", by Americo Beviglia Zampetti and Pierre Sauve, in Research Handbook in International Economic Law (E. Elgar, 2007), p215;
  5. ^ See Rudolf Dolzer and Christoph Schreuer, Principles of International Investment Law, Oxford, 2008, p. 2. Also see UNCTAD, World Investment Report (2006) XVII, 26.
  6. ^ "Model Text of the Indian Bilateral Investment Treaty" (PDF). Retrieved 25 October 2016.
  7. ^ (discusses model BITs). See also INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT INSTRUMENTS: A COMPENDIUM VOLUME XIV, 01/03/05 (UNCTAD/DITE/4(Vol.XIV)), Part II, for the Canadian model BIT.
  8. ^ Protest against EU investment policy Transnational Institute

See also

External links

  • United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) list of all current BITs between states, with links to treaty texts.
  • Canadian Treaty Information
  • Discover the dark side of investment Resources critiquing investment agreements for prioritising corporate profits above human rights and protection of the environment
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