UK takes lead to forge new investment treaty

Ministers plan three-monthly meetings to reach consensus on labour, environmental standards

UK government ministers with responsibility for environment, development and trade have launched a process to forge a consensus on how an international treaty on investment should operate. Predicting a "long and difficult" road ahead, they have arranged to hold meetings every three months with representatives of industry, NGOs, local authorities and environmental regulators to decide the basic principles for such a framework. The first meeting took place last week - just over a month after the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) conceded that its efforts to get agreement on a draft treaty had foundered (ENDS Daily 22 October). Governments' concern about the potential effects of the treaty on national sovereignty, national and international labour and environment standards were cited as being the key reasons for the draft treaty's downfall. Participants at the meeting were given assurances that the government was starting with a "clean piece of paper," one told ENDS Daily. They were told that a new treaty would focus on investor responsibilities as well as rights and that it would aim to push up labour and environmental standards. The UK's initiative to a new treaty is considered likely to be influential within the OECD process based on its position as a significant global investor and a close ally of the USA. OECD delegates are due to resume talks on investment next month.

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