SNF Project: Convergence versus Divergence?

Text-as-data and Network Analysis of International Economic Law Treaties and Tribunals


International economic law increasingly has to confront problems of a “big data” nature. Faced with a proliferation of thousands of bilateral investment treaties (BITs), hundreds of free trade agreements (FTA) and an ever-growing body of case law rendered by WTO panels or investment arbitrators, it becomes exceedingly important to find new ways to organize and analyse this complex and atomized structure of international economic law. This project will make a novel contribution to these efforts by providing big data solutions to big data problems.

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The evolution of the BIT universe from 1980 to 2015

State-of-the-art text-as-data analytics and network analysis 


The projects draws from recent advances in computer technology to reveal hitherto undiscovered structures running through international economic law. In particular, this project will use state-of-the-art text-as-data analytics and network analysis to investigate patterns of convergence and divergence in international trade and investment law. Our research will focus on:

(1) the universe of free trade and investment protection agreements and

(2) the network of investment awards and trade panel/Appellate Body reports

Revealing the structures of convergence and divergence in both areas of international law will help policy-makers and negotiators, in particular in developing countries, to better understand the current structures of international economic law and to help evaluate its need for reform. 


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Developing a better understanding of patterns underlying international economic law - Visualization taken from the Mapping BITs project (with Dmitriy Skougarevskiy) 

Project Team


Wolfgang Alschner

Research Fellow, Centre for Trade and Economic Integration

Weiwei Zhang

Research Fellow, Centre for Trade and Economic Integration