India has emphasised that negotiations on investments do not belong to the WTO and has cautioned a group of countries, led by several developed nations, negotiating a plurilateral deal on investments, against attempting to bring a “non-mandated, non-multilateral issue” to the formal process in the WTO in violation of rules.

“There has not been any Ministerial mandate for starting negotiations on investment-related matters. Several attempts have been made in the past to push this agenda, starting from the first MC and till the 11th MC. However, these attempts ended with a negative mandate every time,” India said at a recent meeting of the WTO General Council. 

India’s concerns

India’s concern emanates from the fact that proponents of Investment Facilitation for Development (IFD), a Joint Statement Initiative (JSI) process should not be attempting to bring a non-mandated, non-multilateral issue to the formal process in the WTO in violation of the WTO framework and fundamental rule of consensus-based decision-making for starting a negotiation, the statement noted.

“It is also worth recalling that the Doha Declaration, in para 20, envisaged that negotiations on this topic could only be on the basis of a decision taken by explicit consensus. July framework (2004) made it explicit that there was a negative consensus in the Council,” India pointed out. 

Curbs sovereignty

India is opposed to a multilateral agreement on investments as it could curb its sovereign space of deciding on its own policies and rules. It is concerned that attempts may be made at the forthcoming WTO Ministerial Conference in February 2024 to formalise the informal discussions on IFD being carried out by a group of countries at the WTO.

Members interested in IFD or any other non-mandated issue could have informal discussions outside the formal structures of the WTO, India said. “However, when discussions under JSIs turn into negotiations, and their outcomes are sought to be formalised into the WTO framework of rules, it can only be done in accordance with the rules of procedure for amendments as well as decision-making… Investment facilitation has a negative mandate, as detailed above. Hence, with this negative mandate even to start negotiation, a case for its formalisation in WTO does not arise,” it asserted.