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Foreign Direct Investment in the Philippines and the Pitfalls of Economic Nationalism

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Recent trends in Philippine growth and foreign direct investment (FDI) reveal only modest achievements, when compared with other ASEAN countries, and little impact on income inequality. These outcomes are attributed to the policy of economic nationalism in the Philippines’ constitutional and legislative framework for FDI, whereby government reserves ‘strategic’ fields to Filipinos, while foreigners face hurdles in making investments. The account doubts whether foreign nationals can safeguard investments by recourse to Philippine BITs as those reinforce economic nationalism by requiring FDI to comply with Philippine law. Poulsen’s observation that developing countries entered into bilateral investment treaties (BITs) oblivious of the risks does not seem applicable to the Philippines, which has deftly used BITs to advance economic nationalism. Litigation before domestic courts is not an alternative for protecting investor rights, but international commercial arbitration may become so in due course. The account concludes with proposals for future policy.

Affiliations: 1: University of Hong KongHong Kong


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