Bilateral Investment Treaties

The U.S. bilateral investment treaty (BIT) program helps to protect private investment, to develop market-oriented policies in partner countries, and to promote U.S. exports.

The BIT program's basic aims are:

  • to protect investment abroad in countries where investor rights are not already protected through existing agreements (such as modern treaties of friendship, commerce, and navigation, or free trade agreements);

  • to encourage the adoption of market-oriented domestic policies that treat private investment in an open, transparent, and non-discriminatory way; and

  • to support the development of international law standards consistent with these objectives.

U.S. BITs provide investors with six core benefits:

  • U.S. BITs require that investors and their "covered investments" (that is, investments of a national or company of one BIT party in the territory of the other party) be treated as favorably as the host party treats its own investors and their investments or investors and investments from any third country. The BIT generally affords the better of national treatment or most-favored-nation treatment for the full life-cycle of investment -- from establishment or acquisition, through management, operation, and expansion, to disposition.

  • BITs establish clear limits on the expropriation of investments and provide for payment of prompt, adequate, and effective compensation when expropriation takes place.

  • BITs provide for the transferability of investment-related funds into and out of a host country without delay and using a market rate of exchange.

  • BITs restrict the imposition of performance requirements, such as local content targets or export quotas, as a condition for the establishment, acquisition, expansion, management, conduct, or operation of an investment.

  • BITs give covered investors the right to engage the top managerial personnel of their choice, regardless of nationality.

  • BITs give investors from each party the right to submit an investment dispute with the government of the other party to international arbitration. There is no requirement to use that country's domestic courts.

The United States negotiates BITs on the basis of a model text.

For further information on the BIT program, contact the bilateral investment treaty coordinators at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative at 202-395-4510 or the Department of State at 202-736-4906.

Related Links:

Bilateral Investment Treaties Currently In Force (from the Trade Compliance Center)