Due to their constitutional role, parliamentarians play an important part in the multilateral trading system and the WTO. Any deal resulting from intergovernmental negotiations at the WTO will, in most cases, need approval from legislators.


Background  back to top

The first gathering of legislators from WTO members took place in December 1999 on the margins of the 3rd WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle. This gathering agreed on the need for parliamentarians to be more closely associated with the work of the WTO and called for the establishment of a Standing Body of Parliamentarians whereby Members of Parliaments (MPs) could exchange views, be informed and monitor WTO negotiations and activities.

Formal meetings  back to top

The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and the European Parliament (EP) regularly hold Parliamentary Conferences on the WTO, which usually include a briefing from the Director-General.

The Steering Committee of the Parliamentary Conference meets twice a year in Geneva. The Committee consists of around 30 parliamentarians. The Director-General regularly briefs the Committee on the status of the latest trade negotiations.

Parliamentary Conference on the WTO back to top

The aim of the Parliamentary Conference on the WTO is to “strengthen democracy at the international level by bringing a parliamentary dimension to multilateral cooperation on trade issues”. In this regard, the Conference provides legislators with the opportunity to examine developments in the WTO, obtain first-hand information on the state of multilateral trade negotiations, and consider a possible parliamentary contribution to these multilateral processes.

These conferences usually include a briefing from the Director-General of the WTO and dialogue with Geneva-based trade diplomats, including the Chairs of WTO negotiating groups.

Steering Committee back to top

The Steering Committee is composed of around 30 representatives from various member parliaments of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), the European Parliament and other international organizations. It is supported by the Secretariats of the IPU and the European Parliament. The WTO (Information and External Relations Division) observes Steering Committee meetings at the Committee's invitation and provides up-to-date information on developments in the trade negotiations.

The Director-General, senior staff of the WTO, the Chair of the WTO General Council and Geneva-based ambassadors are often invited to the Steering Committee meetings to brief legislators on the latest developments in the trade negotiations.

Reaching out to parliamentarians  back to top

Senior WTO management regularly attend key international meetings involving parliamentarians (including meetings held at WTO Ministerial Conferences); they often address parliaments in capitals and also meet with parliamentary visitors to Geneva.

Secretariat staff routinely arrange briefing sessions for parliamentarians. The Information and External Relations Division is increasingly working with parliamentary organizations, such as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, the Temasek Foundation in Singapore and the Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie and others. It organizes a number of outreach activities (funded through technical assistance) to inform and engage with parliamentarians on the latest trade issues involving the WTO negotiations. This programme has included regional events in many parts of the globe, including Africa, Asia, Latin America, Europe the Caribbean, the Pacific and the Arab region.





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