New York, N.Y., April 20, 2012 – The United States Council for International Business (USCIB) welcomed the release today of an updated U.S. government model bilateral investment treaty (BIT). It encouraged the U.S. government to move forward aggressively with negotiations toward new agreements to promote and protect American investment in overseas markets as well as foreign investment in the United States, both of which it said would drive increased job creation, exports and economic growth.
“We commend the Department of State and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for their work to update the model BIT text to bring it in line with current priorities,” said USCIB President and CEO Peter M. Robinson. “Although we have concerns with certain provisions, we support the new text as a basis for negotiations with key potential partners. BITs are important tools to open overseas markets for U.S. companies, and they help drive U.S. exports and jobs in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. We are glad to see the U.S. getting back in the game, to ensure that we don’t fall behind our competitors in terms of investment protections.”
The U.S. has negotiated bilateral investment treaties with dozens of countries around the world and is viewed as having the most ambitious, high-standard agreements of their kind, with strong market-opening measures as well as protections against expropriation and guarantees of impartial dispute settlement. BIT provisions are also included in U.S. free trade agreements such as those recently adopted with Colombia, Panama and South Korea.
Changes to the model BIT include measures to increase transparency and public participation, modification of certain labor and environment provisions and an increased focus on ensuring competitive neutrality with state-owned or state-championed firms. Robinson said the business community was disappointed with some aspects of the revision as well as the long delay in its completion. “While well intentioned, some new provisions might dissuade potential BIT partners from entering into talks in the first place,” he said.
Robinson also expressed disappointment that some constructive suggestions from USCIB and others in the business community to strengthen and update the model BIT had not been included in the new text. “We will continue to engage actively with the Obama administration, especially USTR and State, as well as the Congress to advocate on behalf of strong investment protections to benefit U.S. businesses, workers and taxpayers,” he said. “We will also be taking a leading role in working with the administration to prioritize BIT negotiations and to push for early launch of talks with key potential partners.”
Last week, USCIB applauded a joint statement by the U.S. and the European Union on shared principles for international investment, which Robinson called “a high-level, concise endorsement of the key role of international investment in the global economy.” The pro-trade group also drew attention to a parallel and mutually supportive effort by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) to update its own private-sector Guidelines for International Investment. The ICC guidelines are to be released tomorrow at a meeting in Doha, Qatar.
“To succeed in high-growth markets overseas, U.S. companies need a level playing field, especially when they go up against state-owned or state-championed firms.” Robinson stated. “The release of the revised model BIT is another illustration that the business community and major governments are increasingly marching in the same direction in terms of investment policies to promote growth, competitiveness and job creation.”
USCIB promotes open markets, competitiveness and innovation, sustainable development and corporate responsibility, supported by international engagement and prudent regulation. Its members include top U.S.-based global companies and professional services firms from every sector of our economy, with operations in every region of the world. With a unique global network encompassing the International Chamber of Commerce, the International Organization of Employers and the Business and Industry Advisory Committee to the OECD, USCIB provides business views to policy makers and regulatory authorities worldwide, and works to facilitate international trade and investment. More information is available at www.uscib.org.
Jonathan Huneke, VP communications, USCIB
(212) 703-5043 or firstname.lastname@example.org