Although governments conclude IAS standards with respect to overall development objectives, these agreements themselves generally do not directly address economic development issues. While AIs rarely contain specific commitments to promote investment, some provisions that advocate the exchange of information on investment opportunities, encourage the use of investment incentives, or propose the creation of investment promotion agencies (IAPs). Some also contain provisions dealing with development-related public policy issues, such as health or environmental exceptions or essential safety exceptions. Some AIs also give countries specific regulatory flexibility, particularly when it comes to making commitments to investment liberalization. Since the investment agreement deals with the underwriting of shares by investors in return for investment funds, the investment agreement should engage all participating investors, including all segregated funds that invest. Historically, the emergence of the international investment framework can be divided into two distinct eras. The first era – from 1945 to 1989 – was marked by differences of opinion between countries on the level of protection that international law should offer foreign investors. While most developed countries have argued that foreign investors should be entitled to minimum treatment in each hospitality sector, developing and socialist countries have tended to argue that foreign investors should not be treated differently from domestic firms. In 1959, the first bits were completed and, over the next ten years, much of the content that forms the basis of the majority of current ILOs was developed and refined. In 1965, the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States was opened for country signing. The reason was to make ICSID an institution that facilitates the resolution of investor-state disputes.

Preferential trade and investment agreements (PTIA) are broader economic agreements between countries concluded to facilitate international trade and the cross-border transfer of inputs. These may include economic integration agreements, free trade agreements (FAs), Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) or other similar types of agreements covering, among other things, foreign investment provisions. In PTIA, the foreign investment section is only a small part of the contract, which usually includes one or two chapters. Other topics covered in the PTIA include trade in goods and services, tariffs and non-tariff barriers, customs procedures, specific rules for certain sectors, competition, intellectual property, temporary entry of people and much more.