Past WTO Work on New Issues

An Educational Exercise on Trade and Competition and Trade and Investment

About the Project

This project raises awareness of developing country WTO delegates about relevant aspects of past WTO work on Trade and Competition Policy on one hand, and Trade and Investment on the other.

The so-called “new issues”, which have been floating around for 20 years, may come up again at the WTO in the post-Nairobi period. Although most developing countries clearly indicate that it is not yet time to engage in specific discussions and negotiations, they express interest in better understanding what precisely these “new issues” could be, and their own interests therein, so as to be prepared for debates when the time comes.

Looking at recent trade agreements, it has been foreseen that, such new issues could possibly include those issues which already have a history at the WTO such as the remaining “Singapore issues” (investment, competition policy and transparency in government procurement). While Working Groups were set up in 1998 to explore each Singapore issue, they have remained vegetative since the 2003 Cancun Ministerial.

The substantial exploratory work undertaken by the WTO Working Groups on Trade and Competition and Trade and Investment during those seven years has since remained untapped, and the understanding WTO members had started building has not been nurtured. In fact, WTO delegates who worked on these issues before 2003 are no longer in Geneva, and the weak institutional memory of most missions doesn’t enable current delegates to benefit from their predecessors’ experience. This is particularly true for developing countries.

Against this backdrop, CUTS International Geneva is undertaking this project to raise awareness among WTO delegates – particularly from developing countries – about relevant aspects of past WTO work on two of these potential “New Issues”, namely: (i) Trade and Competition Policy; and (ii) Trade and Investment. On each of these issues, a research study will provide a historical recollection and state of existing WTO work on the matter, and analyse its relevance to the current context. Each study will be summarised into a short briefing paper, and presented at seminars for exchange of views and peer learning.

Key features


Developing country WTO delegates are better prepared for possible upcoming debates around Trade and Competition and Trade and Investment.


December 2016 - September 2017


Developing Countries