In numerous African, Asian and Latin American countries, dozens of bilateral investment treaties (BITs) are being negotiated.
Sold on the premise that they incentivise much-needed investment into poorer countries, BITs actually give foreign (often western) investors huge new powers over the economies of those countries, forcing liberalisation onto them in the process. They allow richer countries to bypass the World Trade Organisation (WTO) which, despite a serious lack of democratic accountability, still requires the consent of member states. This allows southern countries to club together to defeat proposals. That’s why talks at the WTO have been effectively stalled since the late 1990s.