Tag Archives: FDI

Comprehensive Empirical Study on Impact of BIT to the flow of FDI

isdsbitpostA recent empirical paper by CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis, a research institute under the Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs, explains the effects of BITs (Bilateral Investment Treaties) on bilateral foreign direct investment (FDI) stocks for various regions and country income groups.

The sample in this paper is formed by 217 countries from 1985 to 2011, making it the largest and most recent period utilized in nearly all studies covering the effect of BITs on FDI. Other papers have often used a shorter period of time or a smaller sample. Reference can be made to a paper by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development which reviews different studies on this issue. Our previous post has discussed this paper.

Below are some findings of the CPB paper:

  1. If countries have ratified a BIT then they invest on average 35% more in terms of stocks than country pairs without a ratified BIT.
  2. The effect differs between countries classified by income group (based on World Bank’s classification). Upper middle income countries seem to benefit the most from BITs. The impact on FDI stocks is about twice the average effect. Examples of upper middle income countries are Romania, Greece and Hungary.
  3. Region-wise, FDI impact is much larger if the host country is located in East Asia or Middle and Eastern Europe.
  4. The number of BITs among developed countries is about 500.

What caused the rise of ISDS claims?

In a recent report by the European Centre for International Political Economy, Demystifying Investor-State Dispute Settlement, the history of the rise of investment protection and ISDS claims is analyzed.

The report responds to the question whether the increasing use of ISDS is a signal that investors have too much power in challenging actions by States.

It concludes the following:

a. At its core, the number of ISDS cases reflects the amount of investment in the world. The growth of ISDS cases and the growth of foreign direct investment (FDI) largely follow the same trend.

b. The key explanation behind the rise of cases is that the volumes of FDI have grown enormously. A portion of such FDI is made in developing countries and transition economies, hence resulting to greater problems faced by investors.

c. There is a growing support of the principle of international rule of law in commerce, demonstrated by the rising numbers of Bilateral Investment Agreements (BITs), as well as the WTO agreements.

d. The most active claimants in ISDS are investors from EU countries. This is not surprising as the EU is by far the biggest source of FDI in the world, representing 43% of all global outward FDI.

e. ISDS cases are concentrated to specific sectors that are highly dependent on public buyers or political support, for example the electricity sector. This is also not surprising since sectors with significant government involvement naturally have a greater degree of political and regulatory risk.

The increasing number of ISDS cases may be described as an increase of trust and reliance on international law in general, and to international arbitration specifically, both by investors and States.

Positive Impact of Investment Agreement and ISDS on Foreign Investment

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) recently released a paper on the relationship between International Investment Agreement (IIA) and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). The research concludes the followings:

a. The majority of empirical studies found that IIA does have a positive impact on the flow of FDI.

b. IIA plays a complementary role among several factors which may boost FDI, among others economic, political and social stability as well as protection of property rights.

c. The existence of ISDS was associated with a positive impact of IIA on FDI.

The roles of IIA, however, have to be seen within the context. The report notes that since its role is complementary; it cannot substitute for the need of sound domestic policies, regulatory and institutional frameworks. IIA is not an insurance that more FDI will come, if the country’s domestic policies are not favorable and stimulating enough for foreign investors. Similarly, we may not expect that IIA can turn a weak domestic policy into a strong one.

Let’s take renewable energy as an illustration. Investment in renewable energy is of great importance since it is seen as one of the solutions to tackle climate change. Many countries have great potentials for renewable energy, but not all have favorable domestic policy to support its development. It would be hard to imagine that foreign investment will come just because of the fact that a country has an IIA in place; domestic policy is also a necessary prerequisite.

As addressed in the paper, attracting FDI is neither the prime nor the only role of IIAs. Its key role is to contribute to predictability, stability and transparency in investor relation. IIA thus ensures that for example a renewable energy investor can reasonably rely on the laws and regulations currently in place when making the investment,  and also that the investor should be able to rely on permits and contracts with government. This stability allows foreign investors to plan its investment – which in the end will boost investor’s confidence.

The fact that IIA has a positive impact on the flow of FDI opens up opportunities for governments to boost investment in a particular area, such as for example sustainable development. ISDS, in turn, safeguards the implementation of the IIA by providing an efficient enforcement mechanism for the terms of the treaty.