Press Release: WTO and IMF Sign Cooperation Agreement

December 9, 1996

A far-reaching globalization of economic activity has resulted in an ever-growing interdependence among different areas of economic policy. Trade and financial policies and developments are increasingly interlinked within countries and in the way they affect other countries. Therefore, given their responsibilities in these areas, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) moved today to strengthen their relations when the heads of the two organizations signed an Agreement for future cooperation and collaboration.

Signed by the WTO's Director-General, Mr. Renato Ruggiero, and the IMF's Managing Director, Mr. Michel Camdessus, the Agreement focuses on three main elements. First, it lays the basis for carrying forward the WTO's Ministerial mandate to achieve greater coherence in global economic policy by cooperating with the IMF as well as with the World Bank; a cooperation agreement between the WTO and the World Bank was also recently finalized. Second, reflecting the synergies in the work and responsibilities of the IMF and the WTO, the Agreement provides channels of communication to ensure that the rights and obligations of Members are integral to the thinking of each organization. Third, in keeping with enhanced cooperation, the Agreement accords observer status to the IMF and WTO in certain of each other's decision-making bodies. Thus, it grants the WTO observer status to appropriate meetings of the IMF's Executive Board, when it considers trade issues, and in turn grants observer status to the IMF in most WTO bodies.

The Agreement signed today in Singapore, on the opening day of the WTO's first Ministerial Conference, has other benefits as well, including better access for both organizations to each other's information and data. Such access is vital to avoid unnecessary duplication. The IMF's macroeconomic information will be of great use to the WTO Secretariat, especially in the preparation of the in-depth and regular Trade Policy Reviews of each WTO Member. In turn, the IMF will have access to a wide range of WTO information, including its Integrated Data Base, which contains trade statistics and information of WTO Members' tariff rates; this is expected to help the Fund in its surveillance and lending activities.

While the Agreement establishes new mechanisms by which the institutions can address each other, it also reflects and builds on a long-standing successful relationship that has always been friendly and largely informal. Thus, the institutions emphasize the need for their day-to-day dialogue to develop in a natural way, creating a more fruitful, two-way relationship between the organizations. Now that the institutional footing has been put in place by the Agreement, it is anticipated that work will start soon to address issues related to achieving better coherence in global economic policy making, an area where the WTO, the IMF and the World Bank each have distinctive roles.


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