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.
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.
In 2001 Tanzania and the Netherlands signed a treaty only known to a few; a so-called Bilateral Investment Treaty aimed "to extend and intensify the economic relations between them and to stimulate the flow of capital and technology and the economic development of the Contracting Parties". But signing the treaty was in fact mainly a symbolic act which since then has had little if any effect in this respect. In fact, a report by the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis found that BITs have no positive effect on investment in low and lower middle income countries located in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa, including Tanzania.
Today, Both ENDS sent a letter, signed by various civil society organisations, to Sigrid Kaag (Dutch Minister of Aid & Trade) reminding her of an important deadline and to urge her to terminate the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) that exists between the Netherlands and Burkina Faso. The treaty, which can be very harmful for a poor country such as Burkina Faso, will automatically be renewed for the next 15 years if it is not terminated before July 1st this year.
International trade agreements often have far-reaching consequences not only for the economy of a country, but also for people and the environment. It is primarily the most vulnerable groups who suffer most from these agreements.
Investment treaties must be inclusive, sustainable and fair. That means that they must not put the interests of companies before those of people and their living environment.
Both ENDS will join the protest against trade treaties TTIP, CETA and TiSA on Saturday October 22nd in Amsterdam. These treaties will have negative impacts, not only in the Netherlands and Europe, but also - and maybe even more so - in developing countries.
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.