Topics handled by WTO committees and agreements
Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements

SERVICES: NEGOTIATIONS

WTO negotiations on market access

Negotiations to liberalize market conditions for trade in services are conducted mainly through a “request-offer” procedure. Members send requests directly to each other indicating what improvements they are seeking for their services and service suppliers; members specify in their initial offers how and to what extent they are willing to take binding commitments in response to these requests.

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This may set in motion a series of bilateral or plurilateral bargaining sessions. Regardless of which member submits a request, the offer, in the form of an improved “schedule” of commitments, would apply to all members.

Unlike requests, which are not provided to the WTO Secretariat, offers are circulated to all members as a WTO document. At the conclusion of the negotiations, final offers become legally binding commitments specifying the conditions under which trade in services is granted.

Full details about the framework of the negotiations are contained in the Guidelines and Procedures for the Negotiations on Trade in Services (S/L/93). Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration provided more detailed negotiating objectives to guide members. The technical aspects of submitting requests and offers are explained in a WTO Secretariat paper.

 

Offers

The Doha Ministerial Declaration established the original timeframe of 30 June 2002 for the circulation of initial requests and 31 March 2003 for the submission of initial offers, with all negotiations to be concluded not later than 1 January 2005.

In the aftermath of the failure of the Cancun Ministerial Meeting in September 2003, a new target date of May 2005 was set for the submission of revised offers. Subsequently, at the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in December 2005, the target date of 31 July 2006 was established for second revised offers. However, given the lack of progress in other areas, the Doha Development Agenda negotiations were suspended from mid-July until January 2007. Negotiations have subsequently continued with no new timelines currently set.

 

Initial offers

As of end of April 2011, 71 initial offers had been submitted by WTO members. Initial offers that have been derestricted by the member concerned are publicly available in the TN/S/O document series. In addition, some members have made their initial offers, or summaries thereof, publicly available on their internet sites.

 

Revised offers

As of end of April 2011, 31 revised offers had been submitted by WTO members. Revised offers that have been derestricted by the member concerned are publicly available in the TN/S/O rev.1 document series.