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.
The WTO is also working to facilitate international investments, particularly in developing countries, in order to contribute to the sustainable development goals of the United Nations. Switzerland is actively involved in this work.
Homepage WTO Investment Facilitation
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.
The International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) is part of the World Bank Group. ICSID provides conciliation and arbitration services for investment disputes between Contracting States and nationals of other Contracting States under the ICSID Convention. The provisions of the ICSID Convention are supplemented by several sets of Rules. Switzerland is a member of ICSID and a party to the ICSID Convention.
Switzerland also participates in the work of the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL). Working Group III of UNCITRAL is examining various options for reforming the settlement of disputes between investors and States. Among other topics, the methods of appointing arbitrators and judges, the prevention of disputes and the possibility of creating a permanent tribunal and/or an appeal mechanism are being discussed.
Homepage UNCITRAL Working Group III
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. This treaty has recently been revised, for the first time since it came into force in 1998. The negotiations resulted in an Agreement in Principle on June 24, 2022. The revised treaty will enter into force once ratified by three fourths of the contracting parties.
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.