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CGD in the News

Global Investment Agreements Flawed (Zambia Daily Mail)

January 23, 2018

From the article:

IN A world with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the international investment policy system stands as an obsolete regime in urgent need of revision and reform. This is the main conclusion of the analysis that the think tank CIECODE conducted for CGD’s 2017 Commitment to Development Index (CDI).
The analysis measures the amount of “sustainable development content” included in International Investment Agreements (IIAs) signed between developing and developed countries. Here, we look at best practices, main issues and which countries could do better.
But, first, what do IIAs have to do with sustainable development? By balancing foreign investor’s protection on one hand and States’ right to pursue public policy interests on the other, IIAs have the capacity to influence the type of foreign investments and the conditions under which they are made. Foreign investments have been developing countries’ main source of external finance for the last two decades (beyond remittances, external debt, or ODA) and that they have concrete implications in host countries’ day-to-day realities (job creation, environmental impact, fiscal revenues generation, or the promotion of vulnerable social groups).
Worldwide, the investment regime is a complex spaghetti bowl made up of more than 3300 IIAs (mainly, Bilateral Investment Treaties and Free Trade Agreements), which has been expanding relentlessly since the early 80’s.
CIECODE has analysed over 300 IIAs signed by developing countries with the 27 CDI countries, and has observed that sustainable development is often poorly secured in these agreements. When IIAs include social or environmental safeguards, they are so weak and full of caveats that their impact is highly diminished. They are focused on protecting foreign investors’ rights and interests leaving aside their expertsobligations. Finally, they have failed in finding equilibrium between protecting foreign investors from unjustified discrimination measures by the host states and ensuring that these retain their right to regulate for pursuing public policy interests. This bias has prevented IIAs from becoming a useful tool to boost and promote sustainable investments at the global and domestic level.
CIECODE’s analysis also shows that IIAs signed with those developed countries most in need are the ones presenting the scarcest development content.

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Director of Policy Outreach, Europe