The Institute for the Integration of Latin America and the Caribbean (INTAL) held a high-level workshop to prepare for the 11th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC11), which will be held in Buenos Aires in December 2017. INTAL organized the event in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF), the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Ministry of Foreign Relations of the Netherlands. The event took place in Geneva on May 31 and June 1, 2017, and was facilitated by the Centre for Multilateral Negotiations. It brought together major experts on global trade, and topmost WTO officials, and high-level officials from the Argentine government who will be responsible for organizing the 11th Ministerial Conference.
Over the course of two days, those present shared best practices from earlier trade negotiations and looked at the challenges the upcoming conference posed to Argentina. Another focus was the country’s role as a host during the conference itself and during the preparatory negotiations that will take place in the coming months. The host country’s effective handling of negotiations will contribute to the meeting being an opportunity to achieve mutual interests, promote multilateral cooperation, and reach constructive outcomes that help develop international trade.
The WTO General Council, which is presided over by Roberto Azevêdo, decided that Argentina would be the first country in South America to host the meeting of WTO trade ministers, which is the organization’s topmost decision-making body and meets every two years.
The Geneva Workshop served as an informal forum where experts and Argentine government officials could openly discuss key issues in the negotiations.
Following the progress made at the meetings in Bali in 2013 and Nairobi in 2015, MC11 will seek to achieve specific results relating to some of the unresolved issues from the Doha Round. It will focus on establishing new regulations for multilateral trade and, possibly, on other spheres such as e-commerce, the integration of SMEs into global trade, and investment facilitation. These issues are increasingly important but also move away from the WTO’s traditional focus on tariff negotiations.
Those at the workshop also explored best practices to facilitate global agreements in complex international scenarios and to build institutional cohesion between the WTO Secretariat, the President of the General Council, and the host country in the run-up to MC11.
The workshop was based on the premise that better a understanding of the dynamics that are generated by well-managed negotiations can help participants to understand how multilateral negotiations evolve and the varying levels of success with which they conclude. Discussions covered issues such as transparency and inclusiveness during negotiations; communication strategies during the negotiation process to ensure that all members and groups are represented; and the constructive development of solutions.
Those present also presented lessons learned from the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs), and the government of the Netherlands in relation to how civil society and the private sector can contribute to the negotiation process.
The workshop concluded with a discussion of the policy framework in which current trade negotiations are carried out, with a focus on the trade policy context for MC11.