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 Cancún 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.