The political economy of international investment agreements
Bonn, 08.12.2014 until 09.12.2014
Hosted by the German Development Institute/Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE),
in co-operation with the I3: International Investment Initiative of the World Trade Institute (WTI)
It is a commonplace by now to say that the international investment regime – consisting of more than 3000 international investment agreements – is in a deep legitimacy crisis. As a result of the sharp increase of investor-state dispute settlement cases in recent years, a growing number of governments and civil society groups in both industrialised and developing economies are questioning the process and substance of IIAs. In addition, the central premise of the international investment regime is being questioned, namely that IIAs lead to more foreign direct investment inflows promoting economic development in the process.
As a consequence, a number of developing country governments are shifting their relationship with the IIA regime by terminating their IIAs or by withdrawing from the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. Others, including industrialised country governments, have started to re-think their IIA approaches. The days of the simple, ‘one size fits all’ IIA seem to be numbered. As the number of newly negotiated IIAs has declined in recent years, more complex investment rules are increasingly integrated in preferential trade and investment agreements among larger groups of countries. These treaties typically combine more balanced rules in the post-establishment phase – that aim at recalibrating the rights and obligations of both investors and host states – with market access rules for investment.
In contrast to the voluminous legal literature on IIAs, comprising thousands of articles and books, economists and political scientists have only fairly recently started to investigate the political economy and the effects of IIAs. In light of the recent changes in the international investment regime, the main aim of this conference was bringing together economists and political scientists in particular, as well as legal scholars, who apply empirical methods in political economy – quantitative as well as qualitative – to study the effects of IIAs and the shifts in governments’ stance towards them.
The conference had been concluded by a roundtable discussion on "Research needs for policy" in which participants from various international organisations reflected about future research needs to inform the growing international debate on international investment agreements and the international investment regime.