Speaking on behalf of the group at a meeting of the WTO's Services Council, Shameem Ahsan, Bangladesh's ambassador to the WTO, said the group applauded the efforts so far to make the LDC Services Waiver decision a reality.
There is now “ample evidence on the table” to show WTO members are committed to advance services supply by LDCs, he said. But he cautioned that more needs to be done.
The Services Council also approved preferences that go beyond market access measures and are contained in notifications submitted to date.1
The LDC Group also outlined a proposal for a possible decision on the services waiver at the WTO's upcoming Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) in Nairobi, Kenya in December.
Earlier, Ambassador Martin Eyjolfsson, chairman of the Services Council, informed the membership that 17 WTO members have now submitted notifications of preferential treatment to LDC services and service suppliers.
The members that have submitted notifications are Canada; Australia; Norway; Korea; China; Hong Kong, China; Chinese Taipei; Singapore; New Zealand; Switzerland; Japan; Mexico; Turkey; the United States; India; Chile; and Iceland.
The chairman also told delegations that Brazil's notification was expected to be circulated in the coming days. The European Union said it was confident it would be able to submit its notification soon, while South Africa said its notification was in the final stages of domestic approval.
For the current number of notifications under the LDC Services Waiver see here.
The LDC Services Waiver
The LDC Services Waiver, adopted at the WTO Eighth Ministerial Conference (MC8) in 2011, allows non-LDC members to grant preferences to provide all LDCs greater access to their markets. For the first time, this decision allows WTO members to deviate from their Most-Favored Nation obligation under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
Initial progress on implementation was slow, prompting WTO members to decide at the Ninth Ministerial Conference (MC9) in Bali, Indonesia, on 3-6 December 2013 to take further steps towards the operationalization of the waiver. The first preferences notification, from Canada, was received last March.
Assessment of notifications
The LDG Group provided detailed assessments for nearly all the notifications received to date. The group said the number of notifications received was "impressive" considering the scant progress made on the issue in the first three years after the waiver was adopted, and that it showed WTO members were committed to the integration of LDCs into the multilateral trading system.
In general, the LDC Group said a number of sectors sought by LDCs in their July 2014 collective request for the operationalization of the waiver were strongly reflected in the notifications and that all modes of services supply are variously featured. More than half of the collective request appears to be considered in the notifications, although more needs to be done to address requests related to non-market access concerns (visas, work permits, residence permits and recognition of professional qualifications and accreditation).
Some of the preferences set out in the notifications went beyond offers made in the Doha Round of services talks, or beyond the preferences pledged at a 5 February High-level meeting on the services waiver, the group noted. But clarifications are needed; some notifications do not spell out precisely how a preference will operate for LDCs, and few contained preferences beyond market access.2 Concerns were also expressed about what the group said were the lack of preferences covering mode 4 (cross-border movement of professionals).
Members that submitted notifications provided some initial clarification regarding the preferences offered and said they were prepared to discuss the concerns of LDCs bilaterally.
The LDC Group also outlined a proposed decision for the Nairobi Ministerial Conference related to the services waiver. The group proposed an extension of the waiver period to 15 years from the date of submission of each notification (rather than the current 15 year lifespan of the waiver as from the date of its adoption in December 2011), as well as a definition of the term "preferential treatment" in the sense of the waiver.
Australia said it was prepared to work with the LDC Group on drafting a "Ministerial Declaration on LDCs and Trade in Services" for Nairobi. Australia said members needed to look beyond the waiver and address issues such as supply side constraints and technical assistance in order to help LDCs benefit from the new market access opportunities.
Further information on the LDC Services Waiver and other issues related to services trade and LDCs is available here.
Members can implement preferential treatment related to market access (Article XVI of the GATS) once they have notified the Services Council. Preferential treatment regarding any other measure is subject to approval by the Council. back to text
LDCs identified six members to have notified measures that go beyond market access: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, India, China, and Turkey. back to text