A U.S.-China Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) is unique among other existing BITs insofar as it will have to balance the interests of two world powers that are both capital-importing and capital-exporting nations. It will not only determine future investment relations between the world’s two biggest economies, but will also set the precedent for U.S. investment relations with other major developing countries. While a U.S.-China BIT could potentially unlock sizable benefits, a number of significant challenges—many of which are unique to China’s involvement—complicate the debates around a prospective U.S.-China BIT. This report briefly summarizes each country’s history with BITs, identifies potential challenges in moving forward with negotiations, and highlights potential implications of the U.S.-China BIT for the United States. Drawing on the 2012 U.S. Model BIT, the evolution of China’s BIT practice, and China’s 2012 BIT with Canada, this report concludes by discussing a number of questions U.S. policymakers should consider.
The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by the United States Congress in October 2000 with the legislative mandate to monitor, investigate, and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and to provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.