Switzerland’s Investment Treaties: Time for a change

By Nathalie Bernasconi-Osterwalder, Published by IISD, April 2016

Switzerland currently has signed 118 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with countries around the world, primarily developing countries or countries in transition. Worried about the effects on democratic policy-making—particularly states’ ability to protect the public interest—many governments are reviewing and revising their approach to these treaties. Despite some concerns raised by the Swiss parliament in the past years, Switzerland has so far introduced only timid changes in its recent investment treaties, and its approach to negotiations has remained in large part unchanged in the last decades. This is probably due to the fact that Switzerland has largely been untouched by disputes under these treaties. However, there is reason to expect more cases against Switzerland in the future, as capital flows from traditional investment treaty partners into Switzerland increase. This paper explains the concerns attached to traditional investment treaties—the type of treaties that Switzerland has so many of—and the various ways that countries have adapted their approach as a result. It argues that now is the time for Switzerland to begin updating its approach to investment treaties. Available at http://www.iisd.org/topic/investment.