indications were made during a Services “Signalling” Conference, which was
held on Saturday 26 July 2008 as part of the “July 2008 package”, a series
of meetings held in Geneva aimed at advancing the conclusion of the Doha
Round. The signalling conference was chaired by Mr Lamy.
The ministerial-level conference brought together participants from 32 WTO members and provided them with the opportunity to exchange indications on their own new and improved services commitments as well as the contributions expected from others. However, the signals were not intended to represent the final outcome of the negotiations.
Some of the main points in the report are highlighted below:
Participants stressed the central importance of the services sector for economic and social development.
Some said that a satisfactory outcome of the services negotiations could be one of the most significant development dividends of the Doha Development Agenda.
Virtually all major sectors were covered during the conference. In particular, financial services, telecommunications, transport and a range of professional services were frequently mentioned. There were also many indications of willingness to facilitate access in environmental services, in line with the objectives of the Doha Ministerial Declaration.
All modes of supply were regularly mentioned by participants. For example, most indicated their readiness to improve access conditions for Mode 4. In several statements, these signals were expressly linked to the development character of the Doha Round.
Several participants acknowledged the need to clarify, reduce or remove economic needs tests and to act accordingly. These signals were particularly relevant in view of the discretionary nature of such tests.
Expressions of willingness were given by several participants to close the gap between applied regimes and existing commitments in a number of sectors. In one case, this was offered across the board. Another participant signalled its intention, in most sectors, to bind under the General Agreement on Trade in Services the treatment currently extended under free trade agreements (FTAs). Particularly encouraging were several signals that indicated commitments would involve new market opening beyond current applied conditions.
Several participants underscored the importance of establishing effective disciplines on domestic regulation, in accordance with the timelines contained in Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.
Participants stressed satisfaction with the progress achieved on “modalities” for the treatment of least-developed countries.
Mr Lamy observed that participants had prepared
their aspirations prior to the conference and before they heard signals from
each other. Some of the wishes had already been, or were on their way to
being, fulfilled. In many cases, this was indicated by the signals given by
participants in response to collective requests. Mr Lamy underscored that
the signals exchanged were subject to a satisfactory conclusion of the Doha
Development Agenda, and as such did not represent the final outcome of the
services negotiations. The conference was “without prejudice” to the
positions of non-participating members and did not affect their right to
benefit from any resulting commitments on a most-favoured nation basis.
The full report, including the list of participating members, is available here.
There are four ways (or “modes”) of trading services, as defined in the General Agreement on Trade in Services:
services supplied from one country to another (e.g. international telephone calls), officially known as “cross-border supply” (“Mode 1”)
consumers or firms making use of a service in another country (e.g. tourism), officially “consumption abroad” (“Mode 2”)
a foreign company setting up subsidiaries or branches to provide services in another country (e.g. foreign banks setting up operations in a country), officially “commercial presence” (“Mode 3”)
individuals travelling from their own country to supply
services in another (e.g. fashion models or consultants),
officially “presence of natural persons” (“Mode 4”).
Economic needs test
The economic needs test is a
mechanism used by governments to subject the granting of market access to
demand and/or supply conditions in the market. Such tests are often opaque,
due to unspecified criteria. In the services negotiations, the reduction or
removal of such tests is a negotiating objective.
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