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Businesses See Future for WTO in Addressing Broader Range of Issues

Monday, June 06, 2016
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

More than 60 business leaders met with World Trade Organization officials last week in a first-ever event that highlighted the challenges and opportunities companies face in conducting trade operations and how the WTO can help in dealing with them. Director General Roberto Azevêdo said the meeting illustrated “a resurgence of private sector interest” in the WTO following recent progress on issues such as trade facilitation, information technology product tariffs and agricultural export subsidies and will help inform trade negotiations going forward.

Among the issues raised by business leaders were the following.

- facilitating e-commerce by enhancing transparency and non-discrimination, simplifying regulations and standards, and discussing the establishment of global rules on e-commerce, including for cross-border data flows

- developing an investment facilitation framework aimed at improving transparency, sharing information, and simplifying and speeding up administrative procedures in national investment regimes; developing clear and transparent guiding principles on investment policymaking; and adopting an international investment facilitation action plan

- improving the regulatory environment for micro, small and medium-sized enterprises through the digitalization of government processes, improvement of access to public procurement markets, and reduction of compliance costs; developing coordinated capacity building and certification programs to facilitate the inclusion of MSMEs in global value chains; and ensuring sufficient trade financing for MSMEs

- developing a plan, with numerical targets, to fill export financing gaps

- continuing work on issues such as reducing or eliminating tariffs and tariff peaks and clarifying rules on the use of trade remedy measures

- delivering more plurilateral and sectoral agreements at the WTO; e.g., in the chemicals sector

- taking a more active role in monitoring the impact of regional and bilateral trade agreements and reviewing how they could be harmonized at the global level or incorporated under the WTO umbrella

- tackling red tape and non-harmonized documentation among countries

- streamlining the WTO dispute settlement process to avoid unnecessary delays

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