WTO members continue discussions on advancing negotiations to achieve a higher level of market opening, as mandated in Article XIX of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). These talks began in 2000 under the original mandate contained in the GATS and became part of the Doha Round at the 2001 Doha Ministerial Conference. In 2011, members agreed on a waiver allowing preferential treatment to be granted to services and service suppliers of least-developed countries.
Negotiations of specific commitments, under Article XIX of the GATS, take place in the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services. The current chair of these negotiations is Ambassador Zhanar Aitzhanova (Kazakhstan). More recently, members have discussed proposals in the context of exploratory discussions on improving market access commitments in services.
Members are also negotiating rules on domestic regulation in services, in line with Article VI of the GATS, with the aim of ensuring that measures relating to qualification requirements, technical standards and licensing requirements do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade in services.
Background and state of playback to top
News on the negotiations
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Major areas of services negotiations
There are four major areas of services negotiations:
- market access
- domestic regulation
- GATS rules: emergency safeguard measures, government procurement and subsidies
- implementation of LDC modalities (i.e. special treatment for least-developed countries under GATS Article IV.3).
The Council for Trade in Services (meeting in “Special Session”) is the body responsible for overseeing the negotiations. Subsidiary bodies tasked with negotiations in specific areas, such as the Working Party on Domestic Regulation and the Working Party on GATS Rules, report to the Special Session. The current chair is .
Schedules of specific commitments specify the levels of market access (e.g. whether there are any restrictions on the total number of service suppliers) and national treatment (e.g. whether some privileges are given to locally-owned companies compared to "like" foreign companies) as well as any additional commitments a member is prepared to make in a particular sector.
KEY MILESTONES IN THE NEGOTIATIONS
- January 2000: Negotiations begin
- March 2001: Guidelines and the Procedures for the Negotiations on Trade in Services are adopted
- November 2001: Doha Development Agenda is adopted
- March 2003: Deadline for receiving “initial offers”
- July 2004: “July Package” establishes deadline of May 2005 for submission of revised offers
- December 2005: Hong Kong Ministerial Conference sets out detailed guidance on process and substance of services negotiations
- July 2006: Doha Round negotiations suspended
- January 2007: Resumption of Doha negotiations
- July 2008: Services Signalling Conference held as part of “July 2008” package. Ministers exchange signals on improvements that could be expected in services.
- 2009: Slowdown in negotiations overall due to failure to conclude agriculture and NAMA modalities
- December 2011: Ministerial Conference adopts a waiver to permit WTO members to grant preferential treatment to services and service suppliers from LDCs.
- December 2015: At the Nairobi Ministerial Conference, ministers acknowledge that members “have different views” on how to address the future of the Doha Round negotiations but note the strong commitment of all members to advance negotiations on the remaining Doha issues, including services. Some members say that new approaches are necessary.
More information is available here
Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation
Under the Joint Initiative on Services Domestic Regulation, WTO members are conducting negotiations, with the aim of developing disciplines to facilitate services trade. Participation in this Joint Initiative is open to all WTO members.