mc12 briefing note

Investment Facilitation for Development

Originally launched by a group of developing and least-developed WTO members, the Joint Initiative on Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD) aims at developing a multilateral agreement that will improve the investment and business climate, making it easier for investors in all sectors of the economy (goods and services) to invest, conduct their day-to-day business and expand their operations.

Facilitating greater participation of developing and least-developed members in global investment flows also constitutes a core objective of the future agreement. The initiative does not cover market access, investment protection and investor-state dispute settlement.

Member-driven, transparent, inclusive and open to all WTO members, the IFD joint initiative currently has the participation of over 110 members (1) , 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.

A second Joint Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development was issued on 22 November 2019, with 98 members expressing  support for the 2017 Joint Ministerial Statement.

A third Joint Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development was issued on 10 December 2021. In this statement, the signatories stated their aim to conclude the text negotiations by the end of 2022 and their determination to further intensify outreach efforts. The Joint Statement provides clear guidance for delegations involved in the negotiations and reiterates the importance of developing and least-developed country (LDC) members' participation in global investment flows. It also underlines the need for technical assistance and capacity building to help these countries implement the future IFD Agreement.

Members shared the common view that a future IFD Agreement would create clear and consistent global benchmarks for investment facilitation, reducing regulatory uncertainty and making it easier for investors to invest. It would anchor domestic reforms in shared international commitments, sending a positive signal to investors. Also, it would allow developing and least-developed country members to receive the technical assistance and capacity-building support they need to implement and benefit from the future agreement, participants said.

Negotiations on investment facilitation

Negotiations on investment facilitation for development were formally launched in September 2020. Since then, participating members have made significant progress on key pillars of a future IFD Agreement, such as on the transparency of investment measures. Members have also been working intensively to advance discussions on remaining topics.

Participating WTO members have mostly discussed the following topics:

  • improving the transparency and predictability of investment measures
  • simplifying and speeding up investment-related administrative procedures
  • strengthening the dialogue between governments and investors, and promoting the uptake by companies of responsible business conduct practices, as well as preventing and fighting corruption; and
  • ensuring special and differential treatment, technical assistance and capacity building for developing and least-developed countries.

In the first half of 2022, participants in the negotiations continued work, with a view to meeting their objective of concluding the text-based negotiations by the end of 2022. In July, the co-coordinators of the negotiations, Ambassador Sofía Boza of Chile and Ambassador Jung Sung Park of the Republic of Korea, announced their intention to issue a revised version of the “Easter Text” in September if there is sufficient progress in the negotiations. The revision will reflect the progress achieved since February this year. Ambassador Boza and Ambassador Park also invited interested delegations to share with them their sense of the negotiations' state of play and priorities for the months ahead to advance work as much as possible.

Before the summer break, the co-coordinators reported on their consultations on “most-favoured nation (MFN) treatment/non-discrimination” and the definition of “authorization” for an investment as part of the section on scope and general principles in the future Agreement on Investment Facilitation for Development.

The co-coordinators also reported on their consultations on “other possible exclusions”, based on the report of the facilitator of the discussion group on “scope/exclusions” who consulted with groups of members about possible exclusions from the scope of application of the future IFD Agreement for government procurement, certain subsidies and taxation measures.

On MFN, participants welcomed a joint text contribution by four participating members. This text was deemed to be a positive step forward from past discussions, which had been conducted on the basis of several proposals on the MFN/non-discrimination provision. Overall, participants considered the joint text contribution, which follows a traditional MFN approach, a good basis for future discussions on the MFN provision.

proposed schedule of meetings for the period September-December 2022 was shared with delegations. The schedule includes five IFD meeting sessions of three days each — with the first two days of each session devoted to consultations in various configurations and the third day reserved for an open-ended plenary meeting.

Participating members were also encouraged to make the best use of time available between meeting sessions for bilateral or small-group meetings to advance discussions on compromise text.

Historical background

Investment is not a new issue for the WTO. In fact, at the origin of the multilateral trading system the issue was on the agenda. In 1947, negotiations to create an International Trade Organization (ITO) extended beyond world trade disciplines to include rules also notably on international investment. As the ratification of the so-called Havana Charter proved impossible, the 1947 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) became the only multilateral instrument governing international trade from 1948 until the establishment of the WTO in 1995.

As a result of the Uruguay Round negotiations, the WTO in 1995 for the first time put important obligations on governments with regard to the treatment of foreign nationals or companies within their territories — particularly in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and in the plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement (GPA).

The integration of investment and cross-border trade is most evident in the GATS, which contains elements applying directly to certain investment measures. The GATS defines four “modes” of supplying services, one of which is the supply “by a services supplier of one Member through commercial presence in the territory of another Member”.

The Agreement on Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) prohibits the application of certain investment measures related to trade in goods to enterprises operating within the territory of a member. The TRIMs Agreement is concerned with the discriminatory treatment of imported and exported goods, and trade restrictions. It is not specifically oriented to the treatment of foreign legal or natural persons. But the agreement prohibits, in most instances, WTO members from mandating that enterprises use locally produced goods in their manufacturing or that they impose export requirements on companies.

In 1996, members decided at the WTO's First Ministerial Conference in Singapore to establish a working group on trade and investment, with a mandate to carry out analytical and exploratory discussions. Investment was originally included in the Doha Round agenda launched in 2001 but ministers in Doha decided to postpone the decision on whether to launch negotiations on investment for two years. At the 2003 Cancún Ministerial Conference, ministers were unable to reach consensus on the start of negotiations. On 1 August 2004, unable to bridge their differences, members agreed to drop investment from the Doha Round agenda.

More on the Joint Initiative on Investment Facilitation for Development.


  1. Afghanistan; Albania; Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Bahrain, Kingdom of; Barbados; Belgium; Benin; Brazil; Bulgaria; Burundi; Cabo Verde; Cambodia; Canada; Central African Republic; Chad; Chile; China; Colombia; Congo; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; Djibouti; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Estonia; European Union; Finland; France; Gabon; Gambia; Georgia; Germany; Greece; Grenada; Guatemala; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; Honduras; Hong Kong, China; Hungary; Iceland; Indonesia; Ireland; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Kuwait, the State of; Kyrgyz Republic; Lao People’s Democratic Republic; Latvia; Liberia; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Macao, China; Malaysia; Maldives; Malta; Mauritania; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Mongolia; Montenegro; Morocco; Myanmar; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nicaragua; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Norway; Panama; Papua New Guinea; Paraguay; Peru; Philippines; Poland; Portugal; Qatar; Romania; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of; Seychelles; Sierra Leone; Singapore; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Solomon Islands; Spain; Suriname; Sweden; Switzerland; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Tajikistan; Togo; Turkey; Uganda; United Arab Emirates; United Kingdom; Uruguay; Vanuatu; Yemen; Zambia; and Zimbabwe. back to text


Problems viewing this page? If so, please contact [email protected] giving details of the operating system and web browser you are using.