Trade and Investment

Negotiations on Investment Facilitation at the WTO gain support at Davos

The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters are pictured in Geneva, Switzerland, July 26, 2018.

Image: REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

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Trade and Investment

This article is part of: World Economic Forum Annual Meeting

Ministers at Davos announced negotiations between 99 economies on a new international framework on investment facilitation for development at the World Trade Organization (WTO), with the strong support of business and other key stakeholders. The framework is aimed at making it easier for investment to flow between economies while increasing its development impact.

This initiative has been gradually gaining momentum. It began in May 2017, when ten economies created the Friends of Investment Facilitation for Development to start informal dialogue. This was followed in December 2017 by 70 economies issuing a Joint Ministerial Statement calling for structured discussions to identify and develop the elements of a possible framework. Two years later, in November 2019, 98 economies issued a new Joint Ministerial Statement committing to intensifying this work. Governments have moved the talks forward at a careful pace so as to consult domestic stakeholders and better understand the issues.

Business leaders, government officials, civil society and academics gathered to discuss these developments at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2020 in Davos, releasing the following message.

Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is a commitment of business, civil society, and government. Investment flows can support the achievement of the SDGs by bringing capital, employment, export opportunities, greater consumer choice, advanced technologies, managerial know-how, and overall economic growth.

Important measures to facilitate investment include increased transparency on policies and regulations, streamlined administrative and procedural requirements, sharing of best practices, and coordination between actors to ensure policies and regulations are implemented efficiently and effectively. Facilitation measures can also provide firms with aftercare support so that investments are retained. Importantly, investment facilitation can help advance an economy’s development objectives.

There is growing momentum globally for cooperation to facilitate investment – particularly to drive growth in developing economies. Such cooperation would build on past international efforts to facilitate trade and seek to extend those benefits to investment, especially as trade and investment are increasingly two sides of the same coin.

We urge moving forward with the investment facilitation for development initiative at the WTO to increase both investment flows and their contribution to sustainable development.

With this strong endorsement, Ministers then met in Davos to announce moving to a negotiating mode to reach an agreement. At a meeting chaired by Chile as the coordinator of this process at the WTO, Ministers confirmed that such a framework is seen as an important step to update and strengthen the multilateral rules-based system and make it more responsive to the present-day needs of governments and business.

Ministers re-affirmed their commitment to work towards a concrete outcome on investment facilitation by the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference in Nursultan, Kazakhstan. They welcomed continued input from business and other stakeholders to ensure that the content of the framework is as useful as possible both to increase investment flows and their development impact.

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