WTO and competition policy

As with trade and investment, there is no multilateral agreement of trade and competition policy in the WTO. However, the idea that anti-competitive business practices can seriously restrict trade and should therefore be addressed within a multilateral context is not new. The Havana Charter of 1947 already envisaged that the proposed International Trade Organisation (the precursor to the GATT and the WTO) would have powers to investigate such practices and propose counter measures.

The interface between competition policies and international trade re-emerged as an area of interest during the latter stages of the negotiation of the Uruguay Round and, at the GATT Ministerial Meeting in Singapore in December 1996, the WTO set up a new Working Group on the Interaction between Trade and Competition Policy.

Members were unable to agree on whether or not to launch negotiations on competition policy at the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in CancĂșn in September 2003. At the July 2004 General Council meeting, consensus was reached that Competition Policy, along with the other Singapore issues of investment and transparency in government procurement would be excluded from the Doha Round of trade negotiations and would be relegated to the WTO working groups.