“Structured discussions” on a possible multilateral facilitation framework resumed in Geneva this past month. The meeting, held in early March, marked the first session of the new year, and begins a new phase in the structured discussions process. The WTO members involved previously met seven times during 2018, examining a series of overarching objectives that this framework could address.
These objectives were listed in the joint statement from the 2017 WTO Ministerial Conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina, which formally launched this effort. They include how to “improve the transparency and predictability of investment measures; streamline and speed up administrative procedures and requirements; and enhance international cooperation, information sharing, the exchange of best practices, and relations with relevant stakeholders, including dispute prevention.”
The March meeting was dedicated to improving the transparency and predictability of investment features. The meeting featured opening remarks from WTO Director-General Roberto Azevêdo, who urged participants to be “creative and flexible” as they move into “practical, example-based discussions” as part of this “more outcome-oriented phase.” The participants in this initiative are working off of a “checklist” of issues for each objective area that emerged from the 2018 discussions.