Surgery remains the mainstay of curative treatment for primary rectal cancer. For mid and low rectal tumors, optimal oncologic surgery requires total mesorectal excision (TME) to ensure the tumor and locoregional lymph nodes are removed. Adequacy of surgery is directly linked to survival outcomes and, in particular, local recurrence. From a technical perspective, the more distal the tumor, the more challenging the surgery and consequently, the risk for oncologically incomplete surgery is higher. TME can be performed by an open, laparoscopic, robotic or transanal approach. There is a lack of consensus on the “gold standard” approach with each of these options offering specific advantages. The International Symposium on the Future of Rectal Cancer Surgery was convened to discuss the current challenges and future pathways of the 4 approaches for TME. This article reviews the findings and discussion from an expert, international panel.