Investment facilitation talks move to negotiating phase

Following two years of “structured discussions,” the negotiations for a proposed WTO multilateral framework for investment facilitation (MFIF) are set to begin on September 24–25, 2020.

As we reported, negotiations had been scheduled for the 12th Ministerial Conference, which was to be held in June 2020 in Kazakhstan but has been delayed until 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

While WTO members involved in the investment facilitation talks have been hesitant to agree to binding decisions during this time, virtual meetings have taken place over the summer months, with members proposing language on elements of the framework, including temporary entry for investment persons and the facilitation of movement of business persons for investment purposes, facilitating transfers (related to profits as well as other investment-related capital flows), as well as the preamble, scope, and general principles.

With regard to scope, the discussion focused on whether the framework would cover services and non-services, as well as portfolio investment, and if the MFIF would apply to the entire life cycle of an investment. Additionally, members considered whether to include a specific definition of investment, whether some sectors could be excluded from the framework, and the inclusion of an MFN provision.

This last point may be quite contentious, as it raises concerns about the relationship between the MFIF and the IIA regime.

(Editor’s note: This issue of Investment Treaty News contains an analysis of the potential ways in which the MFIF and provisions in investment treaties may interact.)