For use of information media - Not an official record

Geneva, Switzerland, 18 May 2001

Note to Editors: this release updates number of signatory countries and adds names of countries concerned.

Brussels, 18 May — Nine of the world’s poorest countries, mostly from francophone Africa, signed 29 bilateral investment treaties (BITs) here today with developed and other developing countries, paving the way for increased FDI flows and economic cooperation.

The treaties, signed at ministerial level during the Third UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, which opened here on Monday, were concluded during a round of intensive negotiations for francophone LDCs organized and facilitated earlier this year by the secretariat of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). During the round, 19 countries, including nine LDCs and two developed countries, initialled 42 BITs. Eight other treaties were negotiated but could not be concluded because of outstanding differences.

Countries are increasingly concluding BITs in order to promote and protect foreign direct investments and to foster international economic cooperation. By signing such treaties, developing countries in particular are sending a strong signal to the business community worldwide, as well as to their own investors, of their commitment to providing a predictable and stable legal investment framework.The total number of BITs at the end of 1999 was 1,855 -- 130 more than the previous year -- involving 174 countries. Of this total, 498 BITs involved developing countries. More than 80 treaties signed by developing countries have resulted from the negotiating rounds organized under the auspices of UNCTAD over the past two years.

The negotiations follow earlier rounds of negotiations of BITs and double taxation treaties organized by UNCTAD as part of its work programme on international investment agreements, which includes capacity-building seminars, regional symposia, training courses, dialogues between negotiators and groups from civil society, and the preparation of issues papers. The negotiations are part of a long tradition at UNCTAD of supporting efforts by developing countries to attract and benefit from investment and to facilitate South-South cooperation. UNCTAD´s role is to facilitate the negotiations through the provision of expert advice, conference facilities, secretarial backstopping LDCIII/PRESS/08 Page 2 and travel funds. The organization does not participate in the negotiations.

This latest round of negotiations has been supported by UNCTAD’s trust fund on capacity-building in developing countries on issues in international investment agreements, to which l’Agence pour la Francophonie, France, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom have contributed.

The signatories of today’s treaties are:

  • Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union and Benin*
  • Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union and Burkina Faso*
  • Belgium-Luxembourg Economic Union and Comoros*
  • Cambodia* and Croatia
  • Cameroon and Mali*
  • Cameroon and Mauritania*
  • Cameroon and Guinea*
  • Mauritius and Chad*
  • Benin* and Burkina Faso*
  • Benin* and Ghana
  • Benin* and Mali*
  • Benin* and Mauritius
  • Benin* and Chad*
  • Benin* and Guinea*
  • Burundi* and Mauritius
  • Comoros and Mauritius
  • Burundi* and Comoros*
  • Comoros* and Mali*
  • Burkina Faso* and Comoros*
  • Burkina Faso* and Ghana
  • Burkina Faso* and Mauritania*
  • Burkina Faso* and Chad*
  • Mali* and Chad*
  • Mauritius and Mauritania*
  • Guinea* and Mali*
  • Guinea* and Mauritania*
  • Guinea* and Mauritius
  • Ghana and Mauritania*
  • Ghana and Mauritius

*Least developed countries