Row over investments

a crucial decision confronts the forthcoming Fifth World Trade Organization (wto) Ministerial Conference in Cancun, Mexico, in September 2003: whether or not to launch negotiations on a possible multilateral framework on investment. Issues such as the very need for this type of an arrangement under the wto, and the pro-investor tilt in proposals put forward by the North will also have to be dealt with simultaneously.

The wto's Working Group on the Relationship between Trade and Investment (wgti) is currently undertaking "exploratory and analytical work' in order to assess the scope for such a framework.

At this stage, however, it seems unlikely that a consensus can be evolved between now and Cancun. "The wgti discussions are completely incoherent. On every issue that has been put on the table so far, there is so much divergence,' asserts Nagesh Kumar, director general of Research and Information System for the Non-Aligned and Other Developing Countries. The organisation analyses development policy and international negotiations.

On its part, the eu