International Investment Rules Relevant to Switzerland


International rules on investment have been established multilaterally within the framework of the World Trade Organization (WTO) through the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMS). Attempts at the Doha Round to broaden the scope of international investment rules to include non-services sectors failed in 2004 when capital exporting and importing countries were unable to reconcile their different expectations.


As a multilateral regulatory framework, the OECD's Code of Liberalisation of Capital Movements is also important for Switzerland. Under this code, Switzerland undertakes to refrain from discriminatory practices against foreign investments made by investors from fellow OECD member countries, regardless of the economic sector involved. At the same time, Swiss investors may also benefit from the principle of non-discrimination for their investments in other OECD member countries. The OECD's Code of Liberalisation of Capital Movements and its Code of Liberalisation of Current Invisible Operations allow for certain reservations that have to be spelled out in lists. Attempts to reach a comprehensive Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI), which would have liberalised and afforded protection to international investments and introduced legally binding dispute settlement mechanisms, failed in 1998 after several years of negotiations.

Multilateral Investment Rules applying to specific sectors

As far as multilateral investment rules applying to specific sectors are concerned, Switzerland adheres to the Energy Charter Treaty (ECT), which affords investment protection for non-commercial risks associated with investments in the energy sector. The ECT also includes an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. However, an initially planned schedule to this treaty that would have covered the liberalisation of investments in the energy sector did not materialise. The ECT is the first multilateral investment treaty that includes a dispute settlement mechanism. In addition to Switzerland, the signatory countries to the ECT include all EU member states, all other Balkan countries as well as all members of the Commonwealth of Independent States CIS (with the exception of Russia) and Japan.

Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BITs)

Due to the absence of a multilateral framework to protect international investments, Switzerland negotiates on bilateral tracks international law disciplines on the protection of investments in the form of BITS. There are over 3,000 such agreements worldwide, a complex network which explains the interest in a multilateral solution. Additional information regarding the bilateral investment treaties of other countries can be found on the UNCTAD website. Switzerland also negotiates free trade agreements through the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), some of which contain provisions on investment.

Specialist staff
Last modification 20.04.2016

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