After a recent trip to Iceland -- great scenery and delicious food! -- I wanted to learn more about the country, so naturally I looked up Iceland's most recent WTO Trade Policy Review and skimmed through the Secretariat report.* I was intrigued by this sentence:
2.39. Iceland's BITs are generally long-standing, the last one being concluded in 2008. However, there are two draft agreements awaiting signature, and two others under discussion as of May 2017.
Iceland does not have many investment treaties, so I was intrigued by this, and wrote to the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs with this question:
Can you tell me anything more about this? Which treaties are awaiting signature, and which are under discussion?
The Ministry responded with the following:
The two agreements that are awaiting signature are agreements with Macedonia and Turkey. Currently, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs is in the early stages of negotiating bilateral investment agreements with Albania and Ukraine.
That raised more questions for me, and I wrote back with this:
I was wondering if you could tell me a little more about why Iceland is negotiating investment treaties with those countries in particular. Are there particular investments into or from those countries that led to Iceland's interest in treaties with them? Or is this more about establishing good relations with those countries? And was it Iceland or the other countries who proposed the negotiations?
They responded as follows:
In general terms when it comes to negotiating bilateral investment treaties the Icelandic government takes account of several factors such as for example:
- whether Icelandic actors have business interests in that particular state
- whether Iceland has been approached by the other state concerning negotiations
- whether other neighbouring countries with similar interests have concluded an investment agreement with the state
- whether there is an interest in further strengthening bilateral relations with the state in question
- whether Iceland has concluded other agreements such as free trade-, double taxation- or air transport agreements with the state.
The decision to initiate negotiations with Albania and Ukraine was based on the above factors.
I don't have anything further to add here, but I thought it was worth reporting, because I know some of you try to sort out why exactly governments negotiate these treaties and this adds to the knowledgebase a bit.
* That's totally normal behavior and many of you would have done the same! ;-)