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Countries sign 29 new International Investment Agreements

Countries and regional organizations concluded at least 29 International Investment Agreements (IIAs) in 2023.What are IIAs? Whether in the form of bilateral, regional or multilateral treaties, these agreements establish rules and protections for foreign investors doing business in a host country. Of the 29 new IIAs, 12 were bilateral investment treaties (BITs) and 17 were treaties with investment provisions (PITs). As examples, IIAs may include clauses related to:

  • Protection against expropriation.
  • National treatment.
  • Most-favored-nation treatment.
  • Transparency.
  • Dispute settlement mechanisms.

According to UNCTAD, at least 15 IIAs entered into force and 4 were terminated in 2023.This brought the total number of IIAs in force to at least 2,608 by the end of the year. 

International Investment Agreements

These IIAs are largely dominated by older generation treaties, signed in the 1990s and 2000s. The total number of terminations reached at least 585 in 2023; about 70% of these IIAs were terminated in the last decade. Under sunset clauses, IIAs may continue to protect existing investments at the time of termination or withdrawal and grant investors access to investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) for up to 20 years thereafter. 

AfCFTA

IIAs signed and/or adopted in 2023 cover a range of investment governance issues that go beyond protection, such as facilitation, cooperation or investment liberalization . In particular, most of the IIAs signed or adopted in 2023 included commitments on facilitation or cooperation. Approximately half contained protection or liberalization provisions. In the Agreement Establishing the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), the Protocol on Investment-adopted in February 2023-is an example of this incipient change.