“Easter Text” to Facilitate Negotiations for an Investment Facilitation Agreement

WTO members taking part in the negotiations on investment facilitation for development agreed on consolidating into one single document the draft provisions of a future agreement. At a new round of negotiations on 19 and 23 April, delegations started working on the so-called Easter text, with a view to reaching a substantive outcome at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) to be held on 30 November-3 December. They also held a debriefing session for international organizations on the state of play in the negotiations.

The coordinator of the negotiations, Ambassador Mathias Francke of Chile, said that the text was prepared under his responsibility with the objective of helping members progress as much as possible on developing the provisions of the future agreement. This single document will be the basis for the negotiations in the months ahead, with the understanding that specific provisions may need to be revisited in light of the evolution of the negotiations.

The new text, which is in line with the work plan endorsed by participating members at the meeting held in January this year, brings together the two working documents used up to now for the discussions, namely the revised draft text and the informal consolidated text. The Easter text will contribute to visualizing the contours of the future agreement, to facilitating consultations in capitals, and to supporting outreach efforts towards other WTO members, the coordinator said.

Ambassador Francke stressed that the Easter text is intended to continue facilitating open, transparent and inclusive negotiations. Its structure, content and wording do not prejudge the position or views of any delegation on any provisions of the future agreement. In terms of the criteria and methodology followed for its preparation, the text has two types of provisions: the first group of provisions includes all revised draft text by the coordinator circulated and discussed at least once; and the second group of provisions, consisting notably of members' proposals, covers those sections and provisions for which no revised draft text exists.

In addition, participating members at the meeting supported the work plan proposed by the coordinator, which identifies priority work areas up to July 2021 - when a stock-taking and organization meeting for the second part of the year up to MC12 will be held.

The two days of meetings also provided the opportunity for members to discuss text on specific transparency provisions proposed by a member and for facilitators of the small groups to report on their ongoing and planned work. Delegations also held an informal discussion on the possible inclusion of a most-favoured nation (MFN) treatment clause in the agreement.

A debriefing session for international organizations (IOs) was held on 19 April. The session aimed at updating IOs on the state of play in the ongoing negotiations as well as learning from them about their ongoing work on investment facilitation that could be useful for the negotiations at the WTO. The discussion saw presentations from the International Trade Centre (ITC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Bank Group, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Secretariat.

The next negotiating meeting will take place on 11-12 May, with an intersessional meeting scheduled for 30 April. Two additional negotiating meetings are scheduled before the summer break: 15-16 June and 12-13 July.

A proposed schedule for the second half of 2021 running up to MC12 was presented, with negotiating meetings planned on 7-8 September, 4-5 October, 2-3 November and 24 November.

Background

Member-driven, transparent, inclusive and open to all WTO members, this joint initiative currently has the participation of over 100 members, up from the 70 that supported the Joint Ministerial Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development launched at the 11th Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 in Buenos Aires.

In a second Joint Statement on Investment Facilitation for Development issued on 22 November 2019, 98 members expressed support for the 2017 joint ministerial statement. They committed to intensifying work to further develop the framework for facilitating foreign direct investment, and to work towards a concrete outcome on Investment Facilitation for Development at the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12). Participating members also agreed to continue their outreach efforts towards non-participating WTO members, especially developing and least-developed members, to ensure that the future framework helps address their investment facilitation priorities and needs.