INVESTMENT FACILITATION FOR DEVELOPMENT
Following a round of consultations held with interested members by the coordinator of the negotiations, Ambassador Mathias Francke of Chile, participating members agreed to organize their work and define mid-term objectives or “milestones” in the first half of 2021. The main objective is to circulate around Easter time a streamlined text compiling all the revised draft inputs put forward by the coordinator during the previous rounds of discussions and negotiations as well as the different proposals from members.
The “Easter text” will be one of the mid-term milestones in the negotiations and will be drafted without prejudice to the positions or views members express in the coming months as the negotiations for a future agreement advance. Between Easter and July, members should build upon the streamlined text, enriching it as much as possible on the basis of discussions and the work carried out in small groups of members. The text should then become the main drafting basis for the future agreement. Some delegations cautioned about the difficulties ahead in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and called on participants to be mindful of the challenges many delegations face in coordinating positions at home.
Participants discussed provision-by-provision the revised draft inputs put forward by the coordinator on various issues where there is a higher degree of convergence. They also addressed new proposals submitted by participating members. Based on a joint communication by China and Turkey, delegations engaged in a constructive discussion on the facilitation of the entry and temporary stay of businesspersons for investment purposes. They also discussed a comprehensive proposal by Morocco introducing new suggestions for provisions related to: compliance with domestic laws and international obligations; maintenance of public health, labour, environmental and safety standards; and social and environmental responsibility. Finally, they addressed a communication by Chinese Taipei with text proposals on various provisions.
The coordinator urged participating delegations to step up their work, particularly on some critical issues if they want to make concrete progress, and invited interested delegations to meet in small groups to optimize discussion on some specific topics. As per the guidelines provided by the coordinator, those small groups will work in a transparent and inclusive manner, will inform members of the dates of upcoming meetings, will open the meetings to all interested members, and will report back to plenary meetings. Participating delegations expressed their interest in focusing primarily on issues such as scope and the insulation of the future investment framework from international investment agreements (the so-called “firewall” provision).
The coordinator said he will reach out to the representatives of the different regional groupings as well as other major groups (such as the least-developed countries) in the coming weeks to discuss ways to ensure that participants are not left behind in the process and that they can fully engage with the rest of the delegations on finding the appropriate channels of communication.
Participating members agreed to hold two-day negotiating meetings each month between now and July. In addition, inter-sessional meetings may be convened as appropriate and if needed. The first inter-sessional meeting will take place on 9 February followed by the next negotiating meeting on 8-9 March. See the proposed schedule of meetings (INF/IFD/W/29).
In the context of the WTO, investment facilitation means the setting up of a more transparent, efficient and investment-friendly business climate by making it easier for domestic and foreign investors to invest, conduct their day-to-day business and expand their existing investments.
The focus on investment facilitation comes with the recognition that in today’s integrated global economy, expanding investment flows, like trade flows, depend on simplifying, speeding up and coordinating processes. Indeed, in many cases, the bottlenecks, inefficiencies and uncertainties that investment facilitation seeks to address arise from unnecessary red tape, bureaucratic overlap or out-of-date procedures which can become costly impediments to investment.
Member-driven, transparent, inclusive and open to all WTO members, this joint initiative currently has the participation of 106 members, up from the 70 that supported the Joint Ministerial Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development launched at the 11th Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 in Buenos Aires.
In a second Joint Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development issued on 22 November 2019, 98 members expressed support for the 2017 joint ministerial statement. They committed to intensify work to further develop the framework for facilitating foreign direct investment, and to work towards a concrete outcome on Investment Facilitation for Development at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12). These members also agreed to continue their outreach efforts towards WTO members, especially developing and least-developed members, to ensure that the future framework helps to address their investment facilitation priorities and needs. In December 2019, participating members decided to move to formal negotiations as of 2020.