Progress Is Made in Structured Discussions on Investment Facilitation

WTO members involved in the “structured discussions” on investment facilitation met on several occasions during the first quarter of 2021. These meetings culminated with the circulation of the “Easter Text,” an important milestone in the talks that brings together several earlier drafts and texts in one document. This text will serve as the main basis for drafting any ultimate agreement on investment facilitation.

At the January meeting, delegates discussed the entry and temporary stay of businesspeople in the host state of investment; proposals related to provisions regarding compliance with domestic law and international obligations; health, labour, environmental, and safety standards; and social and environmental responsibility.

Meetings in early March laid further groundwork for the eventual “Easter Text.” In these meetings, participants discussed the possibility of a firewall that would insulate the investment facilitation agreement from IIAs. A summary of the meeting discussions states that most delegates are in agreement that it is desirable to avoid situations in which a future investment facilitation agreement is invoked in the context of an investment arbitration. To this end, some members proposed the inclusion of a non-importation clause. Delegates also discussed clarifying the concept of treatment under MFN clauses. Finally, all participating members concurred that any disputes arising under agreement would be resolved under the auspices of the WTO Dispute Settlement Understanding (DSU).

Additional subjects of discussion included a “business obstacle alert mechanism,” issues related to responsible business conduct, corruption, proposals on general exceptions, security exceptions, and financial exceptions.

Finally, delegations met in April to begin working on the Easter Text and to agree on a schedule for meetings in May, June, and July leading up to the WTO’s Twelfth Ministerial Conference (MC12) in November–December 2021.