The Review of International Organizations

, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 477–521 | Cite as

Can I stay a BIT longer? The effect of bilateral investment treaties on political survival

  • Soumyajit MazumderEmail author


Bilateral Investment Treaties (BITs) have proliferated throughout the international system. While ostensibly commercial in purpose, do BITs have domestic political ramifications? I argue that BITs affect a leader’s tenure through their effect on the property rights environment in developing countries. BITs, by segmenting a country’s property rights environment for foreign and domestic firms, reduce the incentive for foreign firms to lobby for property rights protections in the host country thus leading to a stagnating domestic property rights environment. In autocracies, a stagnating domestic property rights regime benefits domestic business elites who can continue to stymie small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The political benefits of BITs, however, decrease as a country becomes more democratic. Using a dataset of developing country leaders over the period 1965-2011, I find support for my hypothesis that BITs are associated with a decreased hazard of losing office and that the effect diminishes with higher levels of democracy. My results highlight the consequences of the legalization of global investment on the domestic political economy.


International treaties Multinational corporations Property rights Legalization 

JEL Classification

F23 F53 F60 K33 



For helpful comments and insights, I thank Jennifer Tobin, Marc Busch, Nita Rudra, and Robert Dent as well as participants of the 13th Annual Carroll Round Conference. I thank Duncan Hobbs for his help on collecting data on BITs. All errors are the authors’ own.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard UniversityCambridgeUSA

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