BILATERAL INVESTMENT TREATIES
Bilateral investment treaties are a German invention and came about during the era of decolonisation. The first modern one was between Germany and Pakistan in 1959, and it was quickly emulated by Switzerland and others.
Today there are almost 2 300 bilateral investment treaties in force all over the world, and most of these regulate the relationship between a rich and a poor country, protecting the property of the developed world in the developing world.
South Africa has signed 46 of these agreements – all of which were signed in a short period after 1994, starting with a bilateral investment treaty with the UK – but only 22 have been in force.
Since 2012, six of the 22 bilateral investment treaties have been denounced – those with BelgiumLuxembourg, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands. The bilateral investment treaties are almost all identical, using a boilerplate template designed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Despite criticism of the Promotion and Protection of Investment Bill and the denouncement of bilateral investment treaties, these treaties all have long sunset clauses of at least 10 years. The British one, which is still in effect, remains 20 years after its cancellation. Bolivia, Ecuador, Czech Republic and Indonesia are also systematically clearing their bilateral investment treaties.