This article contextualizes the debate about the implications of the investment treaty regime for regulatory autonomy. It points out that, to understand why the investment treaty regime limits sovereign powers and to be able to reconstruct a regime to make it responsive to the needs of both foreign investors and host countries, it is necessary to revisit the history of investment protection by treaty and assess the terms of investment treaties in relation to that history. The article argues that investment protection by treaty was primarily aimed at protecting the private business interests of investors from the developed world who invested abroad. This overarching historical objective influenced the terms of investment treaties. This is manifested in the terms of classical investment treaties which provide for absolute rights for foreign investors. The article calls for the reconstruction of investment treaties to make room for public interest regulation.