Recent years have witnessed rapidly evolving dynamics of foreign investment and trade in Asia as investment into and within the region grows rapidly. A number of countries are increasingly investing abroad, including China, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea; at the same time, many developing countries in the region are looking to leverage foreign investment for economic growth. These trends raise new policy questions for home and host countries seeking to maximize the benefits of such outward and inward investment, while also mitigating the potential social and environmental costs. The new opportunities and risks challenge policy makers, researchers and civil society to develop effective and innovative governance frameworks in order to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.
Foreign investments play a pivotal role in most countries’ political economies. International investments can aid a host country in developing a sound economic structure, increasing and diversifying manufacturing, offering novel and more developed services, creating employment, and bringing innovative technology, amongst other benefits. Additionally, outward investment can bring long-term capital gains to the home country, help build economic and political ties with other nations, and, in some cases, ensure access to critical natural resources.
In order to encourage such cross-border capital flows, countries have taken various steps such as revising their domestic legal frameworks to liberalize rules on inward and outward investment and create special regimes providing incentives and protections for foreign investment. Countries have also taken bilateral and multilateral action including entering into trade and/or investment agreements. Alongside these investment promotion activities, increasing attention is also being paid to whether and how these domestic and international legal frameworks seeking to promote foreign investment are accompanied by laws and policies to regulate the conduct of investors and investments.
Against the background of these developments, the Asia FDI Forum 2015 provided a multi-stakeholder platform for participants from academia, government, the private sector and civil society to discuss regional investment trends, highlight specific features of Asia-Pacific investment laws and treaties, and explore policy implications. Among key questions, the Forum explored:
- how Asia-Pacific’s agreements compare to recent global trends in the evolving rules on foreign investment;
- the patterns and implications of increasing regionalization in investment rulemaking by Asian countries;
- perceptions and use of investor-state arbitration by Asian investors and against Asian states; and
- the relationship between efforts to increase FDI and efforts to improve governance and inclusive growth and development.