Key actors in the investment arena, including high-level policy-makers from around the world, will be meeting to discuss "Foreign direct investment and development in a globalizing world economy" at a ´Global Investment Forum´. The meeting is being convened by UNCTAD in Geneva on 10 October 1996, ahead of the WTO Ministerial Meeting in Singapore in December.
Ministers, business executives, heads of intergovernmental bodies as well as experts from academic institutions and non-governmental organizations will participate in this one-day event, the latest example of the determination of the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, Mr. Rubens Ricupero, to involve elements of civil society and the business community to a greater extent in UNCTAD´s activities. The Forum will be chaired by Mr. Alexander Erwin, Minister of Trade and Industry of South Africa and President of UNCTAD IX, the most recent quadrennial Conference of UNCTAD. Organized during the annual session of the Trade and Development Board, UNCTAD´s governing body between Conferences, the Forum will be open to the press.
Urgent need for a better understanding
Foreign direct investment (FDI) is at record levels ($315 billion in 1995) and transnational corporations are moving at an unprecedented pace to build global business structures. These trends, outlined in UNCTAD´s World Investment Report 1996, released on 25 September, have significant implications for the evolution of international policy arrangements on investment. The Forum has thus been designed as an opportunity for all parties involved to engage in a critical examination of the issues. The participants have been actively involved in shaping international policy arrangements for FDI.
On the way to Singapore
These discussions will help governments to prepare for the first Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to be held in Singapore from 9 to 13 December, where issues related to the linkages between trade and investment may figure prominently. All governments now recognize the growing importance of FDI. But their responses to this policy challenge remain highly diverse, as reflected in the proliferation of bilateral, regional and multilateral instruments and in the wide range of approaches characterizing them.
Why in UNCTAD?
"UNCTAD - the United Nations body entrusted with the promotion of development - has the task of contributing to a better understanding of the role of FDI in development and helping countries determine their position regarding future developments of the multilateral treatment of FDI", Mr. Ricupero stated in announcing the Forum. "The development dimension should be given centrality in any further evolution of the investment framework", he stressed.
UNCTAD, by common consent, is playing a leadership role in providing research and policy guidance on investment issues, and in assisting developing countries to prepare fully for the complexities and the challenges ahead.
On the agenda
- Trends in FDI, in particular to the least developed countries, their determinants and impediments, and policy implications for the promotion of FDI;
- Interrelationships between investment, trade and technology, and implications for development;
- Examination and review of existing investment agreements, identification and analysis of issues relevant to a possible multilateral framework on investment and implications for development.
Each of the agenda items will be introduced by a discussion panel of Ministers, chief executive officers (CEOs) of firms from developed and developing countries, and international experts. These discussions will be followed by a concluding panel consisting of heads of relevant intergovernmental bodies.
High-level government representatives who will participate in the Forum include:
Mr. Ibrahim Adam, Minister of Trade and Industries, Ghana; Mr. Vladimir Dlouhy, Minister of Industry and Trade, Czech Republic; Mr. Antonio Kandir, Minister of Planning and Budget, Brazil, on behalf of MERCOSUR; Mr. B.B. Ramiah, Minister of State of Commerce, India; Mr. Yeo Cheow Tong, Minister of Trade and Industry, Singapore; and Mr. Long Yong-Tu, Assistant Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Cooperation, People´s Republic of China.
Participants from international institutions will include:
Mr. Donald Johnston, Secretary-General, OECD; Mr. Bill Jordan, General Secretary, International Confederation of Free Trade Unions; and Ms. Maria Livanos Cattaui, Secretary-General, International Chamber of Commerce.
The private sector will be represented by, inter alia:
Mr. Thomas Bata, Honorary Chairman, Bata Shoe Organisation; Mr. Peter Brabeck, Executive Vice-President, CEO designate, Nestlé S.A., Switzerland; Mr. John Koo, President and CEO, LG Electronics Inc. Mr. Jaime Serra, Professor at Princeton University, former Minister of Finance, Mexico, will also participate in this event.
For this meeting the UNCTAD secretariat has prepared a report on "Current international arrangements governing foreign direct investment" (TD/B/(43)/5). In addition, UNCTAD is publishing today "International Investment Instruments: A Compendium"(1), which will also serve as background documentation for the Forum. This publication represents the most comprehensive collection (1337 pages) of international instruments relating to foreign investment ever produced. A separate press release outlines the main features of both of these publications (see TAD/INF/PR/9624).