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*Columbia FDI Perspectives*

Perspectives on topical foreign direct investment issues
Editor-in-Chief: Karl P. Sauvant ([log in to unmask])
Managing Editor: Riccardo Loschi ([log in to unmask])

*The Columbia FDI Perspectives are a forum for public debate. The views
expressed by the authors do not reflect the opinions of CCSI or our
partners and supporters.*

No. 330   May 2, 2022

*WTO processes would benefit from the input of civil society*
Karl P. Sauvant and Rebecca Chacon Naranjo* <#m_7655075800001172510__edn1>

WTO negotiations involve complex issues. Negotiators are typically
government officials who—while adept in international negotiations—may lack
the detailed expertise and practical experience related to specific issues
that are the subject of negotiations. Negotiators could therefore benefit
from the information that civil society—including the private sector, trade
unions, NGOs, academia—can provide. Civil-society representatives can
contribute practical expertise and experience and increase the
acceptability of outcomes. Their participation also adds transparency.

The WTO’s 1994 Marrakesh founding document
recognized the value of civil society in Article V.2: “The General Council
may make appropriate arrangements for consultation and cooperation with
non-governmental organizations concerned with matters related to those of
the WTO.”

Yet, not much has changed since 1994.[1] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn2>
Civil-society involvement today primarily consists of briefings, national
and regional outreach and informal trade dialogues with the WTO Secretariat.
[2] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn3>  Members engage ad hoc at the national
level. The only broad-based outreach event is the Public Forum organized by
the Secretariat,[3] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn4> an annual series of
panels involving WTO members, NGOs, academics, and private sector and labor
organizations.[4] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn5>

The WTO negotiations of an Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD)
offer an opportunity to at least institutionalize civil-society input into
the implementation and operation of this prospective Agreement, an
Agreement that focuses on specific technical measures. To this end, the
negotiators can draw on the OECD’s fruitful experience with its Business
and Industry Advisory Committee
(BIAC), the Trade Union Advisory Committee
(TUAC) and OECD Watch

   - BIAC and TUAC represent key stakeholders from OECD members that “bring
   in the views of civil society”, working as “formal consultative bodies”.
   [5] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn6> BIAC and TUAC are umbrella
   associations.[6] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn7> They have official
   consultative status as OECD independent institutional partners and,
   specifically, are “designated as ‘advisory bodies’ to the OECD’s Investment
   Committee”.[7] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn8> BIAC liaises with the
   business community through its policy groups, while TUAC does so with trade
   unions through its Administrative Committee, to arrive at consensus
   positions that are presented in the OECD.  Both engage in regular
   consultations with the Organisation on various policy matters, including
   the Investment Committee that oversees investment policy issues, including
   the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises
   They also ensure that the Guidelines and National Contact Points are known
   to, and understood by, members.
   - OECD Watch represents over 130 NGOs and other civil society
   organizations from 55 countries at the OECD. It is not an institutionalized
   committee like BIAC and TUAC; its current scope is primarily limited to
   advising the OECD’s Investment Committee, including regarding the
   Guidelines and National Contact Points.

Reflecting on its experience, the OECD observes: “[W]e believe that
engaging with civil society helps improve our policy recommendations and
our impact on society”.[8] <#m_7655075800001172510__edn9>

Given this experience, the negotiators of the WTO IFD Agreement should
provide for a mechanism that gives consultative status to civil society in
relation to the Committee on Investment Facilitation that the Agreement
seeks to establish. The mechanism should create a clear process for input
by civil society into the deliberations of that Committee. The purpose
should be to contribute, in an on-going dialogue, ground-level, practical
expertise and experience for the implementation and operation of this
Agreement. Such a mechanism and process—complementing ad-hoc contacts—could
be patterned on the OECD’s successful model involving BIAC, TUAC and OECD

Almost 30 years ago, the WTO’s Marrakesh Agreement provided the mandate to
consult and cooperate with civil society. It is high time to take action.
The WTO’s Director-General should encourage members to do so and facilitate
forging a consensus among WTO members. The negotiators of the IFD Agreement
can pioneer this effort. They should aim for an effective Agreement and set
a precedent for the modernization of the WTO. They should not miss this


* <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref1> Karl P. Sauvant ([log in to unmask])
is Resident Senior Fellow, Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment, a
joint center of Columbia Law School and the Earth Institute, Columbia
University; Rebecca Chacon Naranjo ([log in to unmask]) is a Sciences Po
Paris graduate and an LLM candidate for 2022 at Columbia Law School. The
authors wish to thank Marian Ingrams, Bernard Kuiten, Petros Mavroidis,
Stephen Pursey, and Manfred Schekulin for their comments on earlier drafts,
and Karl Brauner, Bernard Hoekman and Harsha V. Singh for their helpful
peer reviews.

[1] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref2> Even though the General Council
agreed on “Guidelines
in 1996.

[2] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref3> Initiated by Roberto Azevêdo and
organized upon request by civil society.

[3] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref4> Erin Hannah *et al*., “Reforming
WTO-civil society engagement
,” *World Trade Review*, vol. 16 (2017), pp. 427–448.

[4] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref5> However, Supachai Panitchpakdi
established informal advisory bodies with business organizations and NGOs
in 2003; this initiative was discontinued—Carlos Braga and Athanasios
Kondis, “The WTO and the business community”, p. 13.

[5] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref6> OECD, “How we work
: How we engage with civil society”.

[6] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref7> Both have Secretariats. BIAC (
has a General Assembly. It organizes its consultations in 38 policy groups,
collaborating frequently with the ICC and IOE. TUAC (
has Plenary Sessions, supported by an Administrative Committee,
representing national members and partner international trade unions. Both
organizations participate in the annual OECD Ministerial Council meetings.

[7] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref8> OECD Watch, “Advisory Groups
April 8, 2019.

[8] <#m_7655075800001172510__ednref9> OECD, *op. cit*. The OECD is just one
example of how the input of civil society is being sought. Regionally,
e.g., APEC has a private-sector arm, the APEC Business Advisory Council
to advise governments and APEC officials on business-sector priorities and
concerns. The EU has “Domestic Advisory Groups
as a mechanism for civil society to be engaged with, and monitor, the
implementation of EU trade agreements. Consultative mechanisms exist also
at the national level; the Office of the United States Trade Representative
e.g., has 26 thematic consultative committees that engage with civil
society on a broad basis;

*The material in this Perspective may be reprinted if accompanied by the
following acknowledgment: “Karl P.  Sauvant and Rebecca Chacon Naranjo,
‘WTO processes would benefit from the input of civil society,’” Columbia
FDI Perspectives No. 330, May 2, 2022. Reprinted with permission from the
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (***
A copy should kindly be sent to the Columbia Center on Sustainable
Investment at **[log in to unmask]* <[log in to unmask]>*.*

For further information, including information regarding submission to the
*Perspectives*, please contact: Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment,
Riccardo Loschi, [log in to unmask]; Luca Jobbagy,
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*Most recent **Columbia FDI Perspectives*

   - No. 329, Stephen Pursey, “They can run but they can’t hide: MNEs and
   responsible business conduct,” Columbia FDI Perspectives, April 1, 2022
   - No. 328, Roger Strange, “The future of global value chains: Key
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   - No. 327, Ucheora Onwuamaegbu, “A managed dispute-resolution insurance
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*All previous **FDI Perspectives** are available at

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Resident Senior Fellow
Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment
Columbia Law School - Earth Institute
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Fax: (212) 854-7946

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*Karl P. Sauvant, PhD*

*Resident Senior Fellow*
*Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment*
Columbia Law School - The Earth Institute, Columbia University
435 West 116th St., Rm. JGH 825, New York, NY 10027
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"WTO Processes Would Benefit from the Input of Civil Society", "How Would a
Future WTO Agreement on Investment Facilitation for Development Encourage
Sustainable FDI Flows, and How Could it be Further Strengthened?”, "What
Foreign Investors Want: Findings from an Investor Survey", "Incentivising
Sustainable FDI", "Leveraging Digital FDI for Capacity and
Competitiveness", "Green FDI: Encouraging Carbon-neutral Investment",
Sustainable Investment to Build Back Better", "Extending International
Legal Aid from Trade to Investment: An Advisory Centre on International
Investment Law", "Increasing Transparency in Investment Facilitation:
Focussed Support is Needed", *Investment Facilitation for Development: A
Toolkit for Policymakers*, "More Attention to Policies! Improving the
Distribution of FDI Benefits", "More and Better Investment Now!",
"Facilitating Sustainable FDI in a WTO Investment Facilitation Framework:
Four Concrete Proposals", "An Inventory of Concrete Measures to Facilitate
the Flow of Sustainable FDI: What? Why? How?", are available at .

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