Converging towards NAFTA: An analysis of FTA investment chapters in the European Union and the United States

Filippo Fontanelli, Giuseppe Bianco

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The present study is concerned with the evolution of investment chapters of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs). Our purpose is to observe the structure and recurrent patterns of the normative content of these chapters in order to ascertain and analyse certain trends. The sample of agreements reviewed is limited to the investment agreements concluded (or about to be concluded, when there is sufficient information) by the two major importers and exporters of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)-the United States and the European Union. After an overview illustrating the history and layout of the EU and U.S. systems of investment protection (Part I), we provide a breakdown of the provisions that create a gulf between the two models (Part II). In Part III, we describe and analyse the current impasse in the European Union's newly centralised management of investment policies. Our central claim is then illustrated in Part IV, where we argue that the U.S. (NAFTA-like) template is likely to prevail over the European one, in the long run, because it fills the gaps in incomplete treaty regimes like those recurrent in European Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs). The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union seems to confirm this trend. In light of these remarks, we conclude that, in the future, pluri- and multilateral negotiations will increasingly lean towards the NAFTA model and gradually distance themselves from the European BIT standard.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-245
JournalStanford Journal of International Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014


  • incomplete contracts
  • bilateral investment treaties
  • EU external trade
  • investment protection
  • CETA
  • Chinese BITs

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