Improving the deliberative function of WTO bodies

From: Global Affairs Canada

Backgrounder

Canada convened a small, representative group of WTO members in order to address specific challenges that are putting the multilateral trading system under stress including the improvement of the deliberative function of WTO bodies.

The regular work of the WTO takes place in discrete bodies (for example, committees), each tasked with negotiating, administrating and following specific trade policy issues relevant to its mandate. An important part of this work is the ability of members to raise and discuss trade issues within relevant committees. This deliberative function is the lifeblood of the WTO and underpins the credibility of the institution. It is critical to helping members raise and resolve trade issues before they escalate to the level of a formal dispute.

As a tangible example of the leadership of the Canada-led group on WTO reform, members of the group will begin a process to analyze and discuss how the deliberative functions of a small number of WTO bodies could be improved and enhanced. The initial bodies to be examined are:

  1. the Council for Trade in Services (examination to be led by Australia)
  2. the Committee on Technical Barriers to Trade (examination to be led by Singapore)
  3. the Committee on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures (examination to be led by Brazil)
  4. the Committee on Rules of Origin (examination to be led by Switzerland)

Countries from the Canada-led group will set up meetings and lead discussions on each body that will be open to all WTO members. These meetings will not be tied to informal or formal meetings of the bodies themselves.

As discussions progress, each lead country will work with others to formulate committee-specific proposals, with as many co-sponsors as possible from among those participating in the informal process. The eventual goal is to achieve consensus on a package of updates that could be adopted by the entire membership.

Going forward, the Canada-led group will apply lessons learned from work examining the first set of bodies and then launch a similar process examining another set. This iterative process will continue until all committees have been examined.

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