The World Trade Organisation (WTO) members participating in the talks on investment facilitation for development (IFD) announced on 6 July the conclusion of the negotiations on the text of the Agreement following three years of intense text-based negotiations amongst over 110 delegations at all levels of development.
The announcement marks a new turning point in the negotiations and reflects the common aspiration of IFD participants that the IFD Agreement will reach another key landmark at the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) to be held in Abu Dhabi in February 2024.
WTO Director-General Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala welcomed this major achievement towards concluding an IFD Agreement, which aims at attracting and retaining more and higher quality investment, taking into account the respective development priorities of members.
“This represents a momentous achievement,” said DG Okonjo-Iweala, highlighting that the text is the product of discussions among more than 110 participating members, including 80 developing economies, 20 of them least-developed countries (LDCs). In addition, out of the roughly 70 text-based proposals, two-thirds came from, or were co-sponsored by, developing or LDC members, noted the Director-General.
“The proposed IFD Agreement would not just help WTO members attract and retain more investment, but also higher-quality investment,” added DG Okonjo-Iweala. “By enhancing transparency, accountability and good governance in investment procedures, the Agreement fosters a business climate more conducive to sustainable development. The text also contains provisions addressing “Responsible Business Conduct” and “Measures Against Corruption” — again breaking new ground within the WTO.”
Against the backdrop of multiple crises over the past three years, which have resulted in many developing economies grappling with weak growth, rising poverty, high food and energy prices, and debt distress, DG Okonjo-Iweala noted that “encouraging increased foreign direct investment (FDI) flows takes on particular importance, given the need to drive growth, raise productivity, create jobs and improve living standards.”
She also underlined that these negotiations, which have been open to all WTO members wishing to participate, have been exemplary in many ways. “Talks have been step-by-step and bottom-up, allowing all members to understand what is being proposed and how it will benefit them. You have collectively crafted an Agreement that belongs to all of you. This text takes you a step closer to your goal, which I understand is to offer this text for consideration by the broader WTO membership,” she said.
“This next phase will require you to intensify outreach towards the broader WTO membership — to see whether non-participating members can be brought on board, and to explore options for legally incorporating the new agreement into the WTO architecture. Rest assured that I personally will also be doing my bit in this regard,” she added.
Looking forward, DG Okonjo-Iweala underlined that IFD participants will in the coming months intensify their support for investment facilitation needs assessments to help developing and LDC members self-assess their implementation gaps and related technical assistance needs in order to be better prepared for the implementation of the IFD Agreement.
The July 2023 statement by the co-coordinators, Ambassador Boza of Chile and Ambassador Park of the Republic of Korea, highlights IFD participants’ efforts towards achieving an IFD Agreement at the WTO. Held in a transparent and inclusive manner, the text-based negotiations were launched in September 2020, building on over two years of preparatory work since a group of 70 WTO members called in December 2017 for “structured discussions” aimed at developing a multilateral framework on investment facilitation for development.