The Parliamentary Conference on the World Trade Organization aims to enhance parliamentarians’ understanding of the WTO as an important rules-making organization. The Conference is a forum for the exchange of opinions, information and experience. It is also designed to promote common parliamentary action on international trade, especially regarding the successful conclusion of the Doha Round and the implementation of the Bali and Nairobi Ministerial Decisions. This interaction helps the global trade regime to be more transparent and accountable.
The Conference is an opportunity for MPs to oversee the WTO’s vital work in setting global trade rules and settling disputes. The WTO seeks to promote free and fair trade, enhance development and reduce poverty.
The Conference examines the effectiveness and fairness of WTO activities and improves dialogue between governments, parliaments and civil society. It also aims to strengthen the way in which parliaments deal with international trade issues and seek to influence the direction of WTO negotiations.
Sessions are usually held once a year and during the WTO Ministerial Conferences and are attended by hundreds of MPs from across the world.
IPU and the European Parliament also organize parliamentary sessions within the framework of the annual WTO Public Forums. Participants from governments, parliaments, civil society, the business sector, academia and the media examine how the trading system works and discuss the effectiveness of the WTO as an institution. In recent years, topics for discussion have included trade in natural resources, agriculture, services, climate change, inclusive trade and issues of national sovereignty linked to WTO negotiations.
The parliamentary conference was co-founded in 2003 by the IPU and the European Parliament, which serve as co-chairs of the conference’s steering committee. The Committee comprises 22 national parliaments as well as some regional and international parliamentary assemblies and structures. These include the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the WTO Secretariat. Each Member Parliament or organization has the right to choose its representative(s).
All IPU Member Parliaments are invited to the Conference, as are parliaments of sovereign States that are members of the WTO but not affiliated to the IPU. The European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and Commonwealth Parliamentary Association also attend. Attendees are most often members of trade-related standing and select committees in their respective parliaments.
Representatives of WTO members are invited to sessions of the Conference in an observer capacity, but with full speaking rights. The Steering Committee may also invite observers from other international organizations.