Bilateral agreements on the promotion and protection of investments increase legal certainty for businesses investing abroad, thus affording protection against discrimination and expropriation without compensation - a factor of great importance, especially for small enterprises venturing into foreign markets.
At the moment, Austria investment protection agreements with the following 60 countries are in force: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belize, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Guatemala, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iran, Jordan, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Nigeria, Oman, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Yemen.
Key points covered
Bilateral investment agreements are concluded primarily between industrialised and developing countries and/or countries in transition and cover several instruments:
- Non-discrimination: Foreign investors must not be discriminated against in comparison to national investors (non-discrimination based on grounds of nationality) or investors from third countries (most-favoured nation treatment). This principle applies to the approval, management, utilisation and liquidation of any investment made in compliance with the legislation in force in the host country.
- Protection: Bilateral investment agreements protect investors from unfair treatment and ensure compliance with the minimum standards of international law. For instance, expropriation by the host country is possible only against payment of adequate and realisable compensation without delay. This principle also warrants that all payments made in the context of an investment can be effected promptly and without restrictions.
Dispute resolution: In the event of disputes, the parties may not only bring the matter before the national courts, but also before an international court of arbitration, such as, for instance, the ones set up by UNCITRAL (Vienna), ICSID (New York) or the ICC (Paris). Decisions concern the applicability or the interpretation of the agreement (state-state arbitration) – initiated by a signatory state – or damage or loss suffered by an investor (investor-state arbitration) – initiated by an investor. In both cases, the arbitral award is final, binding and enforceable.