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Multilateral agreement on investment, what is it?

What is an MAI (Multilateral Agreement on Investment?

A Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) is an international treaty or agreement designed to promote and regulate foreign direct investment (FDI) between multiple countries. The primary goal of an MAI is to create a framework that encourages investment by providing legal protections and guarantees for foreign investors while also establishing certain rules and standards for the treatment of those investors by host countries.

One example of a Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) is the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), which is part of the World Bank Group. MIGA provides political risk insurance and credit enhancement to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) in developing countries.

MIGA’s mandate is to promote economic growth, reduce poverty, and foster sustainable development in its member countries by providing guarantees to protect investments against political risks, such as expropriation, breach of contract, currency inconvertibility, and political violence. These guarantees help attract foreign investors by reducing the perceived risks associated with investing in less stable or emerging markets.

While MIGA is not a traditional multilateral agreement negotiated among multiple countries, it functions as a multilateral entity and collaborates with member countries to facilitate cross-border investment. It reflects the principles and goals of an MAI by providing a platform for international cooperation in the realm of investment protection and promotion, even though it operates as a specialized agency within the World Bank Group.

Key features of a Multilateral Agreement on Investment may include:

  1. Investor Protection: MAIs typically include provisions that protect the rights of foreign investors. These protections may include guarantees of fair and equitable treatment, protection against expropriation without compensation, and mechanisms for resolving disputes between investors and host countries.
  2. National Treatment: MAIs often require host countries to treat foreign investors and their investments on an equal footing with domestic investors, ensuring that foreign investors are not subjected to discriminatory practices.
  3. Transparency and Non-Discrimination: MAIs can promote transparency in investment-related regulations and require host countries to avoid discriminatory measures that could hinder foreign investment.
  4. Dispute Settlement: These agreements usually establish mechanisms for the resolution of disputes between foreign investors and host governments. This may involve international arbitration or other dispute resolution procedures.
  5. Liberalization of Investment: MAIs may encourage the liberalization of investment by reducing restrictions and barriers to foreign investment in various sectors of the economy.
  6. Promotion of Sustainable Development: Some MAIs include provisions aimed at ensuring that foreign investment contributes to sustainable development, environmental protection, and social welfare in host countries.

It’s important to note that MAIs are complex agreements negotiated among multiple countries, and their specific provisions can vary widely. Additionally, the term “Multilateral Agreement on Investment” has been used in different contexts, and the content and status of such agreements can change over time.

One well-known attempt at creating a multilateral agreement on investment was the Multilateral Agreement on Investment negotiated under the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in the late 1990s. However, this particular agreement faced significant criticism and opposition from various quarters and was never finalized.

In recent years, many countries have been focusing on bilateral and regional investment agreements rather than attempting to negotiate a global multilateral agreement on investment. These bilateral and regional agreements address investment-related issues between two or more specific countries or regions.

What is a bilateral agreement on investment?

A bilateral agreement on investment, often referred to as a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or a Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA), is a treaty or agreement between two countries that is designed to promote and regulate foreign direct investment (FDI) between those two countries. These agreements establish the terms and conditions under which investments from one country can be made in the other country, providing a framework to protect the rights of foreign investors and create a more favorable investment climate.

Key features of a Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) or Bilateral Investment Agreement (BIA) include:

  1. Investment Protection: BITs typically include provisions that protect the rights and investments of investors from one country in the territory of the other country. These protections may encompass guarantees of fair and equitable treatment, protection against expropriation without compensation, and provisions related to compensation in case of losses due to specific events.
  2. Dispute Resolution: These agreements often establish mechanisms for resolving disputes between foreign investors and the host country. Commonly, they allow investors to bring disputes to international arbitration if they believe their investment rights have been violated.
  3. National Treatment and Most-Favored-Nation (MFN) Treatment: BITs often require the host country to treat foreign investors and their investments no less favorably than their own domestic investors or investors from other countries (MFN treatment).
  4. Transparency and Non-Discrimination: Many BITs promote transparency in investment-related regulations and require host countries to avoid discriminatory practices that could hinder foreign investment.
  5. Liberalization of Investment: BITs may encourage the liberalization of investment by reducing barriers and restrictions to foreign investment in various sectors of the economy.
  6. Promotion of Sustainable Development: Some BITs include provisions aimed at ensuring that foreign investment contributes to sustainable development, environmental protection, and social welfare in the host country.

BITs are typically negotiated between two countries on a bilateral basis, and the terms and conditions of each agreement can vary. Countries enter into BITs as a means to attract foreign investment, provide legal protections for investors, and create a more stable and predictable investment environment.

It’s worth noting that some countries and regions also negotiate regional investment agreements that cover multiple countries within a specific geographic area. These regional agreements aim to harmonize investment rules and promote investment within the region.

Overall, Bilateral Investment Treaties are a common tool for countries to encourage and regulate foreign investment while providing investors with a level of legal certainty and protection when investing abroad.

 

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