30 Aug 2016, Journal of International Economic Law Volume 19, Issue 3 Pp. 561-588

Mapping the Universe of International Investment Agreements

Journal article by Wolfgang Alschner and Dmitriy Skougarevskiy, Mapping the Universe of International Investment Agreements in the Journal of International Economic Law (2016) 19 (3), pp. 561-588


Traditional means of content analysis are ill-equipped to deal with the vast universe of international investment agreements (IIAs). In this article, we propose a novel approach to efficiently investigate over 2100 IIAs and their 24,000 articles in unprecedented detail by treating treaty text as data. Our suggested metric yields new and surprising insights about the IIA universe at four different levels. First, at the global level, we use our approach to investigate the effect of asymmetries on negotiation outcomes finding that developed countries tend to be the IIA system’s rule-makers, while developing countries tend to be its rule-takers. Second, on the country level, our method can trace consistency and legal innovation in national treaty networks uncovering hitherto unknown investment policy changes such as the Finnish shift to a pre-establishment template in 1999. Third, on the inter-treaty level, our metric can detect investment policy diffusion highlighting that Israel, for instance, copied its bilateral investment treaty (BIT) language from British investment agreements. Finally, on the individual treaty level, our approach enables us to assess the novelty of newly concluded agreements, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, by relating them to prior practice. Our metric thus provides researchers, practitioners and policy-makers with a powerful novel tool to analyze the IIA universe.

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