Launched by CUTS at a seminar today, a new study on “Trade and Investment in the Multilateral Trading System: How has it Evolved?“ precisely aims to contribute to this, by building awareness on possible approaches to trade and investment in the multilateral trading system.
GENEVA. Since the Working Group on Trade and Investment (WGTI) went into hibernation in 2003, the understanding WTO members had started building on issues and linkages between trade and investment has not been nurtured. With interest resuming since the Nairobi ministerial, members now need to look back at where the WTO left its work on the matter and assess to what extent it remains relevant nowadays. Launched by CUTS at a seminar today, a new study on “Trade and Investment in the Multilateral Trading System: How has it Evolved?“ precisely aims to contribute to this, by building awareness on possible approaches to trade and investment in the multilateral trading system.
“The nexus between trade and investment has come in political debate”, said Hubert Schillinger, Director of the Geneva office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung when opening the seminar.
Presenting the study findings, Julian Mukiibi, Assistant Director at CUTS International Geneva recalled the long multilateral journey of trade and investment since the 1948 Havana Charter, noting that that no multilateral agreement on rules has been concluded so far. According to Mr. Mukiibi, consensus has been lacking on issues such as requirements, market access and dispute settlement among other.
“Regional Trade Agreements are increasingly covering the issue of trade and investment, although the level of commitment with regards to the issues of dispute settlement, technology transfer, transparency and non-discrimination is very different” he said.
Nevertheless, an approach focusing on investment facilitation while avoiding contentious issues from previous negotiations has been recently proposed in the WTO. Among other members, Brazil has been trying to develop new ideas on adapting bilateral advances to a multilateral approach. “We should not revive the ghosts of WGTI, but rather find new solutions to new issues”, advocated at the seminar Mr. Felipe Hees, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Brazil to the WTO.
According to him, investment facilitation could be seen as a single electronic window in multilateral agreements that could reduce the current burdens to international investment. In addition, agreement on investment facilitation would also need to provide for dispute settlement. “A binding agreement with dispute settlement is the stick you need, as a stimulus to make the single electronic window a reality”, he said.
Other international organisations such as UNCTAD are undertaking policy analysis and technical assistance to establish a single window, build consensus among stakeholders, and develop adequate tools to reform policies. The voluntary nature of UNCTAD´s “Action Menu for Investment Facilitation” does not compel countries to adapt their policies in a dictated way, but provides options and analysis for them to decide which policies they want to implement.
“There is a pressing need for systemic, sustainable development oriented reform of International Investment Agreements”, said Ms. Elisabeth Tuerk, Chief International Agreements Section, Division on Investment and Enterprise at UNCTAD, referring to the increasing number of cases where investors brought both developed and developing countries to dispute settlement international arbitration.