What is EDIT?

The Electronic Database of Investment Treaties (EDIT) is a new comprehensive full-text database of international investment agreements (IIAs). Its goal is to facilitate informed public discourse, evidence-based reform, and the academic study of the international investment regime by providing unprecedented access to the most extensive set of IIA texts to date.

As a fully machine-readable database, EDIT allows for efficient search through all IIAs, including through pre-defined content categories. All texts have been standardized and are now available in one single language (English) and format (XML). Also, EDIT embraces a Wiki model whereby users can correct and help improve the data.

Why we need EDIT?

Thousands of bilateral investment treaties and hundreds of preferential free trade agreements with investment components have proliferated globally creating a complex international investment regime. Most of these treaties offer private investors the possibility to launch direct claims for treaty violation against sovereign states. As a result, the IIA regime has become one of the most litigated and controversial areas of international law with close to 1000 disputes that, at times, challenge sensitive areas of public policy-making from tobacco control to renewable energy policies and can lead to multi-billion dollar decisions against host states.

The size and variety of IIAs make it more difficult to analyze their content. Modern technology for full-text searches and text-as-data methods can help to better manage the growing complexity of IIAs, but they require the existence of machine-readable texts. While several databases make IIAs texts available, they are either hidden behind a paywall or are not searchable. EDIT fills this gap. It supports researchers, scholars, students, practitioners, international organizations, policy-makers, civil society and other stakeholders by making IIA texts more easily available and searchable.

Who created EDIT?

EDIT is a free academic resource provided by the World Trade InstituteUniversity of Bern. It was developed during the implementation of the SNIS-funded project “Diffusion of International Law: A Textual Analysis of International Investment Agreements” (2015–2017), in cooperation with the University of Ottawa through funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the World Bank. More details about the project can be found here.

Why is EDIT different?

EDIT stands out among existing investment treaty resources because it is:

  1. Comprehensive: EDIT is the most extensive database on IIAs containing more than 3400 IIA full texts. Texts comprise meta-information, full texts, footnotes, annexes, and side letters. EDIT also includes treaty texts unavailable or underrepresented in other datasets, such as originally Arabic agreements from the Middle East and North Africa. EDIT thereby facilitates more balanced research into global IIA practice.
  2. Uniform: EDIT offers an English translation of all IIAs. Users can therefore search for key provisions such as “fair and equitable treatment” across the entire database irrespective of the original treaty language.
  3. Machine-readable: EDIT digitizes and standardizes all IIA texts making them searchable and machine-readable. EDIT also allows for the machine-processing of text-as-data to support the emerging field of computational legal research.
  4. Annotatable: EDIT texts are stored in XML and XHTML formats, which allows for content annotation. The database provides a first annotation layer that allows users to search for standard provisions. Following a Wiki model, registered users will be able to add further content features to crowdsource the mapping of IIAs.
  5. Freely accessible: EDIT is a free-of-charge academic resource primarily aimed at researchers. EDIT is not meant to compete with existing private or public databases. Rather, it seeks to complement them by broadening access to IIAs and by facilitating innovative text-as-data research.

Why is the scope of EDIT?

EDIT is limited to IIAs, which it defines as a treaty concluded under international law between two or more states or economies, which, in whole or in part, contains substantive obligations to protect and/or liberalize foreign investment either generally or sector-specific. This notion includes bilateral investment treaties (BITs), investment chapters of preferential trade agreements (PTAs), Regional Investment Agreements (RIAs), and Friendship, Commerce and Navigation Agreements (FCNs). This definition further excludes from its scope other types of agreements that have been included in existing databases such as public and international investment insurance schemes (e.g. OPIC and MIGA), some multilateral agreements (e.g. ICSID, Mauritius Convention, TRIMs), Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFAs) and Framework Agreements on Economic Cooperation. All available texts of IIAs are included in EDIT, regardless if they are currently in force.

Where does EDIT get its data from?

The project used texts and metadata of IIAs found in governmental webpages, as well as in open databases, notably UNCTAD’s International Investment Agreement Navigator, and transformed them into a machine-readable format that allows analysis on the paragraph, article, chapter of IIAs texts. In the process of collecting these agreements, we found some 'missing investment treaties' that were not available before in other databases.