Proposals put forward on services pillar of post-Bali work

Original Publication Date: 
24 April, 2015

TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Apr15/08)
24 April 2015

Third World Network

Published in SUNS #8007 dated 22 April 2015
Geneva, 21 Apr (Kanaga Raja) -- An informal meeting of the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services on Monday (20 April), amongst others, heard proposals from some Members on defining the services component of the post-Bali work programme on the remaining Doha Development Agenda (DDA) issues.
According to trade officials, proposals were made by Australia, the United States and the European Union on the services component of the post-Bali work programme that is to be agreed by 31 July 2015.
Members also agreed that the services component of the work programme should include market access and rule-making for services trade, with the market access negotiations needing to move in parallel with the rule- making part of the services agenda.
According to trade officials, many members were of the view that the market access outcomes would be supported by domestic regulation disciplines.
Australia, Japan, Korea and Mexico called for text-based negotiations.
However, trade officials said, with respect to the negotiations on GATS rules, members were in agreement that neither government procurement, subsidies nor emergency safeguard measures are mature enough to form part of the work programme.
According to trade officials, Australia and the US proposed that before making any new or revised services offers, members should provide a list of sectors and modes of supply where they feel comfortable in making commitments and others where they are not, based on their experiences with Free Trade Agreements.
This would help to determine the level of ambition for the services negotiations, and would also fill the gap between members' commitments within the GATS framework and the advances made in services trade over the past two decades.
In order to give more clarity and precision, Australia proposed introducing a formula approach for the market access negotiations.
The EU proposed focusing on trade facilitating and cross-cutting services, including delivery, transport, distribution, telecommunications, training, installation and repairing, including a potential first outcome on qualification and licensing requirements procedures.
According to trade officials, this proposal was welcomed by India and China.
Australia, Barbados on behalf of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Group, China, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong-China, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Switzerland, Turkey and Uganda on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) Group indicated the sectors and modes of supply where they would like to see an outcome.
According to trade officials, Barbados stressed on the importance of mode 4 (movement of natural persons). It also said that attention should be given to new commitments, particularly on contract suppliers and independent professionals.
Uganda also said that mode 4 is a priority for the LDC group. It welcomed the work being undertaken on the LDC services waiver.
According to trade officials, Australia, China, Mexico, New Zealand and Singapore called for a timeline to be set on submitting revised and/or new offers following from the 2005 Recommendations of the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services (Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration).
While members acknowledged the importance of the services component of the post-Bali work programme, some of them repeated their call for the agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA) negotiations to accelerate in order to set the tone for the services negotiations.
Brazil said that services is not a self-contained pillar and that the level of ambition in agriculture should be higher than that in both services and NAMA combined.
According to trade officials, South Africa said it is not ready to engage in the market access discussions until there is better clarity in the other pillars. It also voiced scepticism about members meeting the July deadline (for agreeing on the post-Bali work programme).
On the other hand, other members including Australia, Chile, Costa Rica, the EU, New Zealand, Pakistan and Peru called for the services pillar to be more independent and to ensure that it does not lag behind.
According to trade officials, as with previous meetings, it was suggested that the work already undertaken on services could be used as a benchmark on resuming the negotiations.
These include: request and offer negotiations; Annex C of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration; the 2008 Signalling Conference at which members indicated positive market access commitments across all major services sectors and modes of supply; the 2009 Chairman's report to the Trade Negotiations Committee; and the 2011 Chairman's report to the Trade Negotiations Committee.
According to trade officials, at the informal meeting, several delegations stressed the importance of achieving a balanced outcome with agriculture and NAMA, with some members calling for agriculture to receive primary treatment.
Both developed and developing countries including Barbados, Costa Rica, Kenya, Cuba, Indonesia, Norway and Australia highlighted the importance of placing the development dimension at the heart of the negotiations, trade officials said.
According to trade officials, India said that members should avoid cherry-picking of issues and accord equal treatment to all sectors and modes of supply.
The Chair of the Special Session, Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia, will be producing a factual, non- binding, non-attributable and non-prescriptive summary report reflecting the statements made by members at this meeting, trade officials added. +