On 23 May, the Netherlands celebrates 60 years of bilateral investment treaties (BITs). The first BIT was signed with Tunisia in 1963. These treaties were intended to make an important contribution to protecting foreign investments by Dutch companies. A study by SOMO, Both ENDS and the Transnational Institute (TNI), however, shows that in practice they mainly give multinationals a powerful instrument that has far-reaching consequences people and the environment worldwide.
Over 70 organisations worldwide have signed an open letter to call upon the Dutch government to vote against CETA - the 'Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement'between Canada and the EU this week. They have serious concerns about the negative global social and environmental impacts of the CETA trade deal and similar upcoming European Union's trade agreements.
Indigenous communities in Paraguay saw their attempts to regain their ancestral lands thwarted by German investors. This is the level of impact that investment treaties can have on social, environmental and economic development and rights. Why? Because of the ‘Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) clauses that are included in many such treaties.
For several years now, Both ENDS has been drawing attention to the downsides of existing Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) between the Netherlands and countries in the Global South. In 2017, an important step was taken, when Uganda decided to terminate its BIT with the Netherlands, as advised by Both ENDS and our local partner SEATINI.
Many countries are led to believe that signing a bilateral investment treaty (BIT) or international investment agreement will open the door to foreign investment that contributes to economic development and prosperity. But the evidence tells a different story.
Recently, India has terminated its bilateral investment treaties (BIT) with 57 countries, including the Netherlands. This means Dutch companies in India, and Indian companies in the Netherlands, can no longer make use of the controversial arbitration procedures called ISDS. According to Burghard Ilge from Both ENDS, India's action is a step in the right direction. However it is a missed opportunity that the Dutch government did not agree with this termination. This way, old investments stay protected for 15 years under the former BIT.
In Indonesia, US-based mining companies succeeded to roll back new laws that were meant to boost the country’s economic development and protect its forests. This is the level of impact that investment treaties can have on social, environmental and economic development and rights. Why? Because of the ‘Investor-to-State Dispute Settlement’ (ISDS) clauses that are included in many such treaties.