THIS NEWS STORY is designed to help the public understand developments in the WTO. While every effort has been made to ensure the contents are accurate, it does not prejudice member governments’ positions.
Negotiations on trade in services resumed on 17 December following the breakthrough achieved in the General Council on 27 November 2014 . At this meeting, WTO members agreed to set July 2015 as the new deadline for agreeing a work programme for completing the Doha Round of negotiations as a whole.
In his address to WTO members, Ambassador Duque of Colombia urged services negotiators to be "pragmatic" and to focus on what is "doable and realistic". He also requested that members refrain from repeating known positions.
The purpose of this informal meeting was to hear WTO members' views on ways to advance the services negotiations in light of the decisions taken at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference and the General Council in November.
Delegations emphasized the importance of services in the post-Bali work programme and expressed their commitment to engage in substantive discussions to meet the July 2015 deadline. Several delegations suggested an "outcome-based" approach to define the scope, goals and structure of the talks. This included a proposal to hold an informal debate to hear members' aspirations in the services negotiations. It was also suggested that work already undertaken on services could be used as a benchmark to resume negotiations. This work includes:
- request and offer negotiations;
- the 2005 Recommendations of the Special Session of the Trade in Services Council (Annex C of the 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 2011 Chairman's report to the Trade Negotiations Committee.
Several delegations repeated known positions, including the importance of:
- achieving a balanced outcome with the other Doha Round negotiating pillars (agriculture and non-agricultural market access), with some members reiterating that agriculture should be treated primarily;
- achieving balance within the services agenda, among sectors and modes as well as between market access and rule-making;
- avoiding cherry-picking of issues and according equal treatment to all sectors and modes of supply;
- placing the development dimension at the heart of the negotiations;
- developing new approaches for members to submit their revised services market access offers;
Some members reiterated their call for the services negotiations to take place at the multilateral level solely, in the context of the Services Council's special sessions.
Chairperson Gabriel Duque will be consulting with WTO members in January 2015.
A meeting of the Special Session of the Services Council could be held in February 2015.
Deadline for post-Bali work programme: July 2015
Current chairperson: Ambassador Gabriel Duque, Colombia.
Learn more about WTO negotiations on trade in services here.