Structured discussions on investment facilitation continue during lead-up to now-postponed ministerial conference
Beginning September 2021, WTO members participating in the Structured Discussions on investment facilitation have been meeting, on average, every two weeks. This includes four negotiating meetings on September 7–8, October 4–5, November 2–3, and November 16–17, as well as two intersessional meetings held on September 23 and October 20–21. Negotiations for an agreement on investment facilitation took place on November 24, the last meeting on the matter before the now indefinitely-postponed WTO 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12). Finally, a head of delegations meeting took place on November 30, 2021.
Over these last months, participating WTO members have continued work on new proposals as well as on the “Easter Text” (circulated by the coordinator of the structured discussions in mid-April), which has become the basis for negotiations. This document has been revised by the coordinator several times; the most recent version (INF/IFD/RD/74/Rev.3) was circulated to members prior to the mid-November meeting, when participating members continued their discussion with a view to preparing a Joint Ministerial Statement for presentation at the MC12.
At the negotiating meeting held on November 2–3, according to the annotated agenda by the coordinator (INF/IFD/W/39), the main objectives included the following: to discuss “Measures Against Corruption” (provision 31); to continue discussions on “Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) Treatment” (provision 4); to discuss a paragraph on “non-violation complaint” (provision 35 on “Dispute Settlement”); to continue discussions on text proposals on “Provision of Assistance and Support for Capacity Building” (provision 29) and on “Information on Assistance and Support for Capacity Building to be submitted to the Committee” (provision 30); to continue discussions on a joint Communication on Investment Facilitation Needs Assessments; to receive the report of the facilitator of the Discussion Group on “Scope”; and to share views on participating members’ “plans and expectations” for MC12.
In the wake of the MC12’s postponement, members met on November 30 and reportedly discussed ways to “maintain momentum” and identify an “alternative landing plan” for the proposed joint Ministerial Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development, which was to be presented at the MC12.
According to a WTO news item, it was also announced on November 30 2021 that eight new members, Albania, Georgia, the Maldives, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Uganda and Zimbabwe, had announced their intention to join negotiations. No documents related to that meeting have been released at the time of writing.
A schedule of meetings for the first half of 2022 has also been agreed upon. According to this schedule, participants will hold eight two-day negotiating meetings between January and July 2022, starting on January 26-27, 2022. Despite the postponement of MC12, Signatories met on November 30 at the level of Heads of Delegation to take stock of the negotiations and reiterate their commitment to continue negotiations.