Analytical Note, December 2015

WTO’s MC10: The Call for ‘New Issues’ at the WTO and Implications for Developing Countries

Narratives concerning enhancing the participation of developing countries in ‘Global Value Chains’ (GVCs) and supporting micro, small and medium enterprises have featured prominently in the WTO
and other international organizations. These have intensified in the run up towards the Ministerial Conference in Nairobi. These discourses on GVCs and MSMEs have often been linked to making the case to ‘reinvigorate the WTO’ and to address new trade-related issues. The scope of the term ‘new issues’ is not clear. It could include the remaining three Singapore Issues (i.e. investment, competition, and transparency in government procurement’) and also a non-exhaustive list of other issues.

Experts considering the challenges associated with discussing the Singapore issues at the WTO pointed out that these are ‘non-trade’ issues that do not belong to the WTO. If these issues are brought into the WTO, and WTO principles are applied to them, developing countries will be at a great disadvantage and would lose a great deal of their economic sovereignty, and their ability to make national policies of their own regarding economic, financial, social and political issues. The exercise undertaken in the dedicated working groups (between 1997 and 2003) showed that there are very wide gaps in the approaches among WTO Members on these issues, in addition to disagreement and lack of clarity in regard to the substance, implications and rationale of prospective multilateral rules in these areas.

This note provides a brief on the challenges associated with discussing investment, competition, transparency in government procurement, and an expanded mandate on e-commerce at the WTO.


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