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WTO NEWS:
1998 NEWS ITEMS

26 February 1997
Non-attributable summary of the main improvements in the new financial services commitments

A total of 56 offers (representing 70 countries) were submitted by the negotiating deadline of 12 December 1997 and annexed to the Fifth Protocol to the GATS.

Five countries (Bolivia, Costa Rica, Mauritius, Senegal and Sri Lanka) made offers in financial services for the first time. At present, 97 WTO Members have commitments in financial services under the GATS. This number will increase to 102 Members with the entry into force of the Fifth Protocol to the GATS.

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India, Thailand and the United States have withdrawn their broad MFN exemptions based on reciprocity. Mauritius has limited the scope of its MFN exemption to services not listed in its Schedule of Specific Commitments. Venezuela has reduced the scope of its MFN exemption by removing capital market services from the coverage. Hungary has limited the applicability of its MFN exemption by removing a discretionary licensing requirement. The Philippines has reduced the scope of its MFN exemption based on reciprocity in commercial banking by excluding the expansion of existing operations from the scope, leaving only the establishment of new commercial presence. Australia eliminated an MFN exemption based on reciprocity for membership in the Australian Stock Exchange.

-    In addition to the 57 countries with existing commitments in the provision and transfer of financial information, Costa Rica, Honduras, Israel, Jamaica, Malta, Mauritius, Romania and Sri Lanka (8 countries) have extended the coverage of their commitments to these services.

(Codes indicating the major areas of improvement: I=Insurance, B=Banking, S=Securities, O=Other financial services.)

Australia

  • - Making significant improvements in banking and other financial services:
  • - Eliminates an MFN exemption based on reciprocity requirements for membership in the Australian Stock Exchange (S);
  • - Eliminates a prohibition on the acquisition of control of any of Australia's four main banks. Also eliminates a measure which prohibits banks (resident or non-resident) from holding shares in the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and other entities from holding more than five percent of its issued share capital (B);
  • - Eliminates restrictions placed on share ownership of authorized money market dealers by foreign and domestic banks, and restrictions imposed on relationships and dealings between authorized dealers and related banks (B);
  • - Relaxes the prohibition on foreign banks located overseas from raising funds in Australia, and allows such banks to raise funds in Australia through the issue of debt securities, subject to conditions (B);
  • - Removes an entry relating to the reservations by State and Territory governments of the right to prohibit foreign control of State-owned or controlled banks (B).

Bahrain

  • - Making commitments in banking and other financial services for the first time:
  • - Allows establishment of subsidiaries or branches by foreign banks. Foreign ownership is restricted to 49% if business is to be undertaken in Bahrain (B);
  • - Introduces commitments covering the entire range of financial services (B,S,O).

Bolivia

- Making commitments in financial services for the first time:

- Covers all insurance services and major subsectors of banking and securities services with no foreign ownership limits for commercial presence (I,B,S).

Brazil

  • - Adding further improvements to its 1995 offer:
  • - Deletes an entry which states that the establishment of new branches and subsidiaries of foreign insurance companies as well as increases in the percentage of foreign participation in Brazilian insurance institutions are not permitted (I);
  • - Extends commitments to (i) body, machinery and civil liability insurance for vessels and (ii) work accident insurance (I);
  • - Indicates that future regulations will permit supply of reinsurance services by private institutions, and that commitments regarding commercial presence in reinsurance would be undertaken within two years after the adoption of relevant legislation (I);
  • - Eliminates a requirement that foreign capital in domestic insurance brokerage firms be limited to 50 per cent of the total capital of a domestic firm and one-third of its voting capital (I);
  • - Deletes an entry which states that the establishment of new branches and subsidiaries of foreign financial institutions as well as increases in the percentage of foreign participation in Brazilian financial institutions except in connection with the privatization programme of public sector financial institutions are not permitted. Replaces this prohibition by a case-by-case authorization requirement (B,S);
  • -  Allows commercial presence of foreign non-financial institutions supplying capital market services such as trading of securities and derivatives and clearing services (S,O).

Bulgaria

  • - Making improvements to commitments made at the time of its accession to the WTO:
  • - Adopts the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services as the basis for the commitments (I,B,S,O);
  • - Extends its commitments to insurance intermediation and services auxiliary to insurance (except actuarial services) (I);
  • - Allows the establishment of branches of foreign insurance and reinsurance companies after 31 March 1998, in addition to participation in Bulgarian insurance companies (I);
  • - Makes commitments in financial leasing (O).

Canada

  • - Revising its 1995 commitments:
  • - Undertakes to modify its Schedule by 30 June 1999 to incorporate the results of the implementation of a new foreign bank entry regime which will allow foreign banks to branch directly into Canada (B);
  • - Eliminates a requirement to gain Ministerial approval for foreign bank subsidiaries to open more than one branch (B).

Chile

  • - Makes technical changes to its commitments improved in 1995.

Colombia

  • - Makes technical improvements to its 1995 Schedule.

Costa Rica

  • - Making commitments in financial services for the first time:
  • - Allows the establishment of affiliates or subsidiaries of foreign service suppliers without limitations in acceptance of deposits, lending of all types, credit card services, and provision and transfer of financial information (B,O);
  • - Extends its commitments to financial leasing, and to cross-border supply and consumption abroad of provision and transfer of financial information (O).

Cyprus

- Making improvements to its Uruguay Round schedule:

- Extends its commitments to reinsurance, banking and securities services for the first time (I,B,S).

Czech Republic

  • - Improving on its 1995 commitments:
  • - Eliminates a monopoly in compulsory air transport insurance, and indicates a possibility to remove monopoly rights concerning compulsory motor third party liability insurance (I);
  • - Provides exceptions to the requirement for residents to obtain foreign exchange permits in the cases of obtaining financial credit from a non-resident, capital payment abroad and purchase of foreign securities (B);
  • - Eliminates the requirement on residents to deposit foreign exchange assets with domestic banks or branches of foreign banks in Czech territory (B);
  • - Eliminates the "economic usefulness" criterion for authorization of banking activities by domestic banks or branches of foreign banks (B).

Dominican Republic

  • - Essentially resubmits its existing commitments made in 1995.

Ecuador

  • - Binds its existing régime on an MFN basis.

El Salvador

  • - Making an improvement to its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Removes a 50 per cent limit on ownership of shares in banks or finance companies by foreign financial institutions, subject to conditions (B).

Egypt

  • - Improving on its 1995 commitments:
  • - Removes the 51 percent foreign equity limit in Joint Venture Banks allowing up to 100 per cent foreign ownership; ownership of more than 10 per cent is subject to approval on a non-discriminatory basis (B);
  • - Relaxes a nationality requirement on the General Managers of banks by replacing it with a ten-year experience requirement (B);
  • - Introduces a commitment to allow 51 percent foreign ownership in insurance companies, as of 1 January 2000 for life insurance companies and 1 January 2003 for non-life insurance companies (I);
  • -  States that relaxation of the economic needs test for life, health and personal accident insurance shall be considered in 2000, and that for non-life insurance shall be considered in 2002 (I).

European Communities

- Binding the present liberal régime of the EU single market in financial services on an MFN basis with few exceptions:

- Makes significant improvements compared to the 1995 commitments involving the elimination of a large number of country-specific measures restricting market access. Some examples of relatively important improvements are the following. They are in the area of banking and other financial services:

    -    Austria

        Elimination of an economic interest test for the licensing of branches or subsidiaries of foreign banks (B).

    -    Belgium

        Elimination of a measure which states that (with certain exceptions) financial institutions may engage in securities trading only through stock exchange firms incorporated in Belgium (S).

    -    Finland

        Elimination of a national interest test for the acquisition of shares by foreign owners of more than one third of the voting rights of a major Finnish commercial bank or credit institution (B).

    -    Ireland

        Elimination of a restriction on the establishment of representative offices by foreign banks (B).

    -    Italy

        Elimination of a local incorporation requirement for securities companies which provide services related to securities dealing and for fund management companies (S);

    -    Netherlands

        Elimination of a requirement that only companies incorporated according to the law and regulations of an EC Member State may become members of the Amsterdam Stock Exchange (S).

    -    Portugal

        Elimination of a requirement to invest 25% of open-ended investment funds in Portuguese Government funds, and a restriction on the ability of residents in Portugal to issue domestic securities on a foreign market (S,O).

    -    Sweden

        Elimination of a requirement to become account operating institutions for the provision of securities custody, depository and settlement services. Also makes an additional commitment to eliminate in 1998 a national treatment limitation concerning the operation of certain collective investment funds by branches of foreign fund management companies, subject to the adoption of a necessary legislative amendment (S,O).

    -    United Kingdom

        Elimination of local incorporation requirements for certain financial institutions dealing in Government Debt (S).

Also makes additional commitments in insurance and other financial services regarding regulatory issues and licensing procedures (I,B,S,O).

Ghana

  • - Making improvements to its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Removes the requirement that at least 20 per cent of the capital of insurance companies need to be owned by the Government, and specifies that foreign partners are allowed to hold management control of local insurance firms (I).

Honduras

  • - Making improvements to its Uruguay Round schedule:
  • - Extends its commitments to factoring services and provision and transfer of financial information (O).

Hong Kong, China

  • - Making new commitments in cross-border supply of reinsurance etc. and relaxing the conditions on the granting of new bank licences to foreign interests:
  • - Binds cross-border supply of reinsurance and services auxiliary to insurance (I);
  • - Removes a requirement that limited companies incorporated in Hong Kong need to be predominantly owned by Hong Kong interests in order to be eligible to apply for a new full banking license (B);
  • - Extends its commitments to financial leasing, guarantees and commitments, and the cross-border supply of advisory and other auxiliary financial services (O);
  • -  Specifies that the limitation on the number of branch offices does not apply to foreign banks licensed before May 1978 for full licensed banks, and before April 1990 for restricted license banks (B).

Hungary

  • - Providing unlimited market access and national treatment for all financial services with few limitations:
  • -  Adopts the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services as the basis for its commitments (I,B,S,O);
  • -  Eliminates or substantially relaxes existing limitations on market access for all financial services, in particular in modes 1 and 2 and for subsidiaries of foreign financial service suppliers in mode 3. Also states that legislation permitting market access of branches is currently being prepared, and the results of this legislation will be reflected in the commitments (I,B,S,O);
  • - Limits the applicability of its MFN exemption by removing a discretionary licensing requirement (I,B,S,O).

Iceland

  • - Improving on its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Liberalizes cross-border supply and commercial presence of foreign financial institutions established in other EEA (European Economic Area) countries (I,B,S,O);
  • - Removes a requirement for insurance undertakings not incorporated in Iceland to deposit assets for agencies established in Iceland (I);
  • - Allows the establishment of a branch or representative office by undertakings engaged in securities services subject to authorization (S);
  • - Removes a 25 per cent limit on foreign ownership of equity shares in a commercial bank (B);
  • - Removes a requirement for a concession if personal data is to be processed outside Icelandic jurisdiction (O);
  • - Removes a citizenship requirement on the manager of a leasing company (O).

India

  • - Improving on its 1995 commitments:
  • - Deletes an MFN exemption based on reciprocity in insurance, banking and other financial services (I,B,S,O);
  •  - Increases the limit on the number of bank licenses granted per year from eight to twelve (B);
  •  - Introduces more flexibility in reinsurance allowed to be taken abroad (I).

Indonesia

  • - Making improvements to its 1995 commitments:
  • - Grandfathers foreign participation in existing joint venture financial institutions (I,B,S,O);
  • - Increases the number of offices which foreign banks and joint venture banks are allowed to operate (B);
  • -  Eliminates an economic needs test in allowing the presence of natural persons for the banking sector, and provides more flexibility in the movement of intra-corporate personnel for the non-bank sector including insurance (I,B,S,O);
  • - Binds up to 100 per cent foreign ownership of non-bank financial institutions including insurance companies (I,S,O);
  • - Undertakes a phased-in commitment to provide full national treatment in capital requirements for non-bank financial institutions by 1998 (I,S,O).

Israel

  • - Improving on its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Undertakes full commitments for commercial presence in insurance intermediation and services auxiliary to insurance (I);
  • - Undertakes full commitments for commercial presence in a broad range of other financial services including participation in issues of securities, asset management services, settlement and clearing services, and provision and transfer of financial information (S,O).

Jamaica

  • - Covering banking and other financial services for the first time:
  • - Binds commercial presence for the acceptance of deposits, lending of all types, and provision and transfer of financial information without any non-prudential limitations (B,O);
  • - Allows up to 100 per cent foreign ownership in insurance and reinsurance companies (I).

Japan

  • - Reflecting the results of the recent insurance system reform and deregulation of foreign exchange transactions:
  • - Removes indications of limitations in insurance which had already been phased out as of end-June 1996 in the existing schedule, such as a ban on cross-border transactions of insurance on Japanese aircraft and ships used for international maritime transport, a ban on insurance brokers and a requirement to retain in yen currency the technical and claim reserves for yen-denominated insurance policies (I);
  • - Removes all remaining restrictions on overseas deposits and trust contracts as well as services associated with various capital transactions, such as trading in foreign exchange, as of April 1998, thus binding a recent change in the Foreign Exchange Law (B);
  • - Undertakes additional commitments binding all the major elements of the bilateral measures agreed with the United States on insurance and on banking and other financial services (I,B,S,O).

Kenya

  • - Improving on its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Extends its commitments to all payment and money transmission services, guarantees and commitments, participation in issues of all kinds of securities except underwriting, asset management except pension fund management, advisory and other auxiliary financial services, and services auxiliary to insurance (I,S,O);
  • - Removes the requirement that at least one-third of the controlling interest of non-life insurance companies and reinsurance companies must be held by citizens of Kenya (I);
  • - Partly allows cross-border supply and consumption abroad of reinsurance (I).

Korea

  • - Reflecting recent reforms and liberalization measures implemented since 1995, makes a large number of improvements to its 1995 schedule based on a full MFN basis. Those improvements include the following:
  • - Relaxes foreign portfolio investment ceilings in listed stocks and limitations on foreign acquisition of outstanding bonds (I,B,S,O);
  • - Undertakes a standstill commitment for market access limitations in financial services listed in its schedule as of 31 August 1997 (I,B,S,O);
  • - Allows the issuing of debentures by banks and relaxes the limitations on the oversold position of spot foreign exchange. Also exempts underlying documentation requirements on forward transactions and eliminates the issuance limits and minimum denomination requirement on CDs (B);
  • - Allows the establishment of subsidiaries in credit card services and all forms of commercial presence in financial leasing (O);
  • - Eliminates the ceilings on individual foreign equity participation in existing securities companies, securities investment trust companies and investment advisory companies (S,O);
  • - Allows the establishment of branches and joint ventures of foreign securities investment trust companies and branches of foreign investment advisory companies (S,O);
  • - Relaxes the ceilings on aggregate foreign equity participation in existing securities investment trust companies and investment advisory companies (S,O);
  • - Eliminates the approval requirements on the establishment of representative offices of foreign securities companies, securities investment trust companies, and investment advisory companies (S,O);
  • - Extends the types of securities allowed to be brokered for foreigners (S);
  • - Allows the establishment of all types of commercial presence of credit rating companies and foreign participation of less than 50 per cent in existing financial information companies (O);
  • - Eliminates the economic needs test for the establishment of commercial presence for life and non-life insurance companies as well as for insurance brokers and agencies (I);
  • - Eliminates the restrictions on foreign equity participation and allows multiple foreign shareholders in joint ventures of life insurance (I);
  • - Eliminates the restriction on the quoting of insurance rates from abroad in non-life insurance (I);
  • - Allows the establishment of subsidiaries and joint ventures of foreign non-life insurance companies (I);
  • - Eliminates a duopoly in fidelity and surety insurance (I);
  • - Eliminates the priority given to reinsurance companies established in Korea in reinsurance (I);
  • - Allows the establishment of independent insurance agencies (I).

Kuwait

  • - Making improvements to its 1995 schedule of commitments:
  • - Allows up to 40 per cent foreign participation in Kuwaiti banks (B).

Macau

  • - Based on a liberal commitment made at the end of the Uruguay Round and reflecting legislative and regulatory changes since 1994:
  • - Makes full commitment in cross-border supply and consumption abroad of reinsurance (I);
  • - Binds the national treatment column in cross-border supply and consumption abroad of banking and other financial services (B,S,O);
  • - Fully binds cross-border supply and consumption abroad of guarantees and commitments, participation in issues of all kinds of securities including underwriting, money broking, provision and transfer of financial information, and advisory and other auxiliary financial services (S,O).

Malaysia

  • - Making improvements to its 1995 commitments:
  • -  Binds 51 per cent ownership in existing joint venture insurance companies by existing foreign shareholders (I);
  • -  Allows non-resident customers to route orders to trade securities on the stock exchange to foreign stock broking companies (S);
  •  - Binds six new licenses for life reinsurance business up to 30 June 2005 (I);
  • -  Allows the establishment of majority- or wholly-foreign owned fund management companies (O);
  • -  Allows up to 30 per cent foreign shareholding in the Malaysian National Reinsurance Berhad and the Malaysian Life Reinsurance Group Berhad (I);
  • -  Clarifies the commitment to allow foreign specialists or experts for banks and insurance companies (I,B).

Malta

  • - Making improvements to its Uruguay Round schedule:
  • - Makes commitments in banking for the first time (B);
  • - Extends its commitments to cross-border supply and consumption abroad of the provision and transfer of financial information (O).

Mauritius

  • - Making commitments for the first time in financial services:
  • - Covers the entire range of insurance services and major subsectors in banking and securities services with commitments particularly for commercial presence of foreign service suppliers (I,B,S,O);
  • - Limits the scope of its MFN exemption based on reciprocity to services not listed in the schedule of commitments (I,B,S,O);
  • -  Extends its commitments to the provision and transfer of financial information (O).

Mexico

  • - Making improvements to its 1995 commitments:
  • -  Raises the allowable aggregate foreign participation levels in domestic financial sectors from 30 per cent to 40 per cent for insurance companies, multiple-banking institutions and securities firms (49 per cent for limited-purpose financial institutions, foreign exchange houses, investment companies, etc.) (I,B,S,O);
  • - Extends its commitments to pension funds (O).

    New Zealand

  • - Making improvements to its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Bases its commitments on the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services (I,B,S,O);
  • - Extends its commitments to cover life insurance, insurance intermediation such as insurance brokerage and agency services, and services auxiliary to insurance (I).

Nicaragua

  • - Making improvements on its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Undertakes commitments in insurance, with very few limitations in commercial presence (I);
  • - Includes financial leasing in the coverage of its Schedule (O).

Nigeria

  • - Making improvements to its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Adopts the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services as the basis for its commitments (I,B,S,O);
  • -  Makes commitments in insurance services for the first time (I);
  • -  Guarantees the right of establishment for commercial presence of all foreign financial institutions except reinsurance companies for which approval is required (I,B,S,O).

Norway

  • - Making significant improvements in insurance, banking and other financial services:
  • - Relaxes the limitations on cross-border supply of insurance by non-resident insurance companies (I);
  • - Relaxes residency requirements for the members of the committee of representatives in Norwegian insurance companies, commercial banks and securities firms (I,B,S);
  • - Eliminates a ban on branches of commercial banks, securities firms and collective investment management companies (B,S,O).

Pakistan

  • - Making improvements to its 1995 commitments:
  • -  Grandfathers existing foreign insurance services providers as to their scope of their operations and equity structure (I);
  • -  Grandfathers existing branches of foreign banks from an existing local incorporation requirement (B);
  • -   Allows acquisition of management control of existing public sector banks on a case-by-case basis (B).

Peru

  • - Improving its commitments made in the Uruguay Round:
  • - Makes commitments in banking and other financial services for the first time, with few limitations on market access for commercial presence (B,S,O);
  • - Improves its existing commitments in insurance and insurance-related services (I).

Philippines

  • - Making significant improvements to its 1995 commitments:
  • - Increases the foreign equity participation limit in existing domestic banks or newly incorporated banking subsidiaries to from 49 per cent to 51 per cent (B);
  • - States that foreign equity participation in existing banks beyond the 51 per cent level will be maintained at existing levels (B);
  • - Increases the foreign equity participation limit in domestic insurance companies or newly incorporated insurance companies from 40 per cent to 51 per cent (I);
  • - States that foreign equity participation in existing insurance companies beyond the 51 per cent level will be maintained at existing levels (I);
  • -  Increases the allowable additional branches of foreign banks to 6 from the current 4, with the first three in locations of the bank's choice, and the remaining three at designated locations (B);
  • - Allows cross-border trade in marine hull and marine cargo insurance (I);
  • - Raises the foreign equity limit in investment houses from 49 per cent to 51 per cent (S,O);
  • - Reduces the scope of its MFN exemption based on reciprocity in commercial banking by excluding the authorization to expand existing operations from the scope, leaving only the authorization to establish commercial presence subject to the reciprocity test (B).

Poland

  • - Improving on its commitments made in 1995:
  • - Deletes a limitation in reinsurance and retrocession that not less than 20 per cent of the premiums must be retained in Poland (I);
  • - Binds cross-border supply and consumption abroad of insurance of goods in international trade (I);
  • - From 1 January 1999, abolishes a requirement for a permit to acquire shares of any company which is a shareholder holding more than 15 per cent of the shares of an insurance company (I);  
  • - Allows investment abroad of no more than 5 per cent of insurance funds (I);
  • - Removes a requirement that foreign participation in an insurance company cannot be lower than 50 per cent of the minimum guarantee fund (I);
  • - Makes a commitment to allow market access through licensed branches of foreign insurance companies and banks after 1 January 1999 (I,B);
  • - Makes a commitment to allow market access through licensed branches of foreign securities companies and advisors (S,O);
  • - Removes a residency requirement for securities brokers and advisors (S,O).

Romania

  • - Improving on its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Introduces commitments in the trading of securities, participation in issues of securities including underwriting, asset management and settlement and clearing services for securities for the first time, with no restrictions on foreign ownership (S,O);
  • - Introduces commitments to allow the cross-border supply and consumption abroad of reinsurance when the reinsured risk cannot be placed on the domestic market (I).

Senegal

  • - Making commitments in financial services for the first time:
  • - Covers insurance and major banking subsectors with commitments to allow commercial presence (I,B).

Singapore

  • - Improving on its 1995 commitments:
  • - Allows the acquisition of up to 49 percent equity stakes in local insurance companies (I);
  • - Admits the entry of reinsurance brokers as locally incorporated subsidiaries (I);
  • - Allows eligible finance companies to deal in foreign currencies, gold or other precious metals, and acquire foreign currency stocks, shares or debt and convertible securities (B,S,O);
  • - Raises the limit on each offshore bank's lending in Singapore dollars to residents from S$ 100 million to S$ 200 million (B);
  • - Expands the range of products which can be traded by financial futures brokers (O);
  • -  Allows foreign stockbroking companies to become Approved Foreign Brokers and trade directly in non-Singapore Dollar denominated securities quoted on the Stock Exchange of Singapore (S);

Slovak Republic

  • - Reflecting the domestic deregulation process undertaken recently:
  • - Eliminates the monopoly of the General Health Company in basic health insurance (I);
  • - Removes an "economic usefulness test" for the authorization of domestic banks and foreign bank branches, subject to adoption of new legislation (B);
  • - Allows commercial presence for asset management service suppliers (O);
  • - Exempts credits from abroad accepted by residents with a repayment period of more than 3 years and loans granted between natural persons for non-business activities from the foreign exchange license requirement (B);
  • - Exempts the export and import of Slovak currency and foreign exchange in cash and bullion from the foreign exchange license requirement (B);
  • - Clarifies commitment in investment services (B,S,O);
  • -  Removes the conditions for authorization in securities trading referring to consistency with government financial policy and conformity with the requirements of the financial market (S).

Slovenia

  • - Reflecting proposed legislative changes which will be adopted by the end of 1998:
  • - Removes an authorization requirement on foreign participation of over 10 per cent in privatized companies (I,B,S,O)
  • - Removes existing licensing guidelines on foreign-owned banks to take into account the existence of foreign investors, national economic preferences for certain banking activities, the existing regional coverage of banks and the applicant bank's performance (B);
  • - Allows licensed branches as well as subsidiaries of foreign banks to provide all or limited banking services depending on the amount of capital (B);
  • - Eliminates the 24 per cent limit on foreign shareholding in stock broking companies (S).

South Africa

  • - Making revisions to its commitments made in 1995:
  • - Extends the coverage of its commitments to settlement and clearing services for financial assets (O);
  • - Concerning membership in the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, removes the citizenship requirement in the case of natural persons (S).

Sri Lanka

  • - Making commitments in financial services for the first time:
  • - Adopts the Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services as the basis for making commitments in banking and other financial services (B,S,O);
  • - Covers life and non-life insurance as well as all subsectors in banking and other financial services (excluding insurance) with commitments to allow commercial presence (I,B,S,O).

Switzerland

  • - Essentially incorporating recent legislative and regulatory changes in health insurance and in securities:
  • - Removes a ban on new health insurance suppliers for participation in the basic health scheme (I);
  • - Relaxes membership restrictions in a monopoly mortgage bond issuance institution (B);
  • - Removes a restriction limiting membership in stock and options and futures exchanges to suppliers with commercial presence in Switzerland (S,O);
  • - Removes a requirement for commercial presence to participate in settlement and clearing networks (O);
  • - Relaxes a requirement that mutual funds (collective investment funds) have to be lead marketed through banks having a commercial presence in Switzerland (substituted by a requirement to market or distribute foreign investment funds through a licensed representative agent resident in Switzerland) (O);
  • -  Allows securities dealers with commercial presence in Switzerland to lead-manage Swiss-franc denominated issues in addition to banks with commercial presence in Switzerland (S).

Thailand

  • - Making improvements to its 1995 commitments:
  • - Fully binds (grandfathers) existing foreign bank branches under the present shareholding structure (B);
  • - Relaxes for a period of up to ten years, the 25 per cent foreign equity limit (and the 5 per cent limit on individual shareholding) for locally-incorporated banks when such relaxation is deemed necessary to improve the condition or business of the commercial bank. Also offers to relax a requirement that at least three-fourths of the directors must be of Thai nationality subject to the same terms and conditions (B);
  • - Relaxes similar limits for financing companies and credit foncier companies under the same terms and conditions (B);
  • -  Specifies that foreign shareholders who enter in the above-mentioned ten-year period will be grandfathered thereafter with respect to the absolute amount of their equity holding (B).

Tunisia

  • - Improving on its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Liberalizes foreign acquisition of shares in companies established in Tunisia representing less than 50 per cent of the capital (I,B,S,O);
  • - Introduces a new type of bank called "banques d'affaires" and a new type of investment company called "sociétés d'investissement à capital risque (SICAR)" (B,O);
  • - Recognizes the activities of securities exchange intermediaries (S).

Turkey

  • - Containing some improvements to the commitments made in 1995:
  • - Eliminates a residency requirement on branch managers of foreign insurance and reinsurance companies (I);
  • - Clarifies the commitments for portfolio management companies and rating agencies (O);
  • - Abolishes an incorporation requirement for precious metals intermediaries (O).

United States

  • - Binding commitments with respect to new entrants and new activities of foreign suppliers on an MFN basis:
  • - Binds commitments with respect to new entrants, expansion of existing activities, and the conduct of new activities on an MFN basis (I,B,S,O);
  • - Removes some restrictions at the State level in relation to the issuance of licenses to non-residents, for example, residency or citizenship requirements, in insurance and services auxiliary to insurance (brokers, agencies, consultancies etc.) (I);
  • - Binds national treatment with respect to the costs of Federal Reserve examinations for foreign banks (B);
  •  - Provides market access and national treatment to foreign firms with respect to interstate banking and interstate branching of banks, except in the case of de novo branching (B);
  • - Removes some State restrictions in relation to the issuance of branch or agency licenses to foreign banks, as well as some State restrictions on the opening of representative offices by foreign banks (B);
  • - Makes additional commitments binding the major items referred to in the bilateral measures agreed with Japan in insurance and in banking and other financial services (I,B,S,O).

Uruguay

  • - Revising its Uruguay Round commitments:
  • - Makes commitments in insurance and insurance-related services for the first time by binding three subsectors (motor vehicle; marine, aviation and other transport; freight insurance) of non-life insurance as well as consultancy and actuarial services (I);
  • - Adds commitments in consumer credit and credit card services (O)

Venezuela

  • - Improving on its existing commitments:
  • - Removes from its schedule and its MFN exemption list reciprocity conditions in capital market services (S,O);
  • - Extends the coverage of commitments for collective investment entities and securities services (S,O).