Bilateral investment treaties

The government argues that the UK’s bilateral investment treaties (BITs) aim to provide investors with fair and equitable treatment and should not restrict a developing country’s ability to regulate on domestic policies. It is important that we consider the effect of our BITs on the UK’s policies on human rights, development and the environment in the countries with whom we have signed treaties. The UK’s trade and investment policy should protect and promote skilled jobs, human rights and workers’ rights, and should preserve and enhance social, health and environmental regulations.

One of the main areas of concern regarding BITs is investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS). Trade and investment agreements should be fully transparent and protect the right of governments to regulate in the public interest. They should not give special status to foreign investors.

Several organisations have raised concerns about parliamentary scrutiny of BITs. To ratify a BIT, the government must lay it before Parliament for 21 parliamentary sitting days, during which time MPs have the chance to scrutinise it. If Parliament debates a treaty and resolves against ratifying it, the government cannot legally do so. However, a debate on the treaty is not guaranteed. It is, therefore, important that we ensure proper parliamentary oversight of the UK’s BITs in the future.