The purpose of this informal meeting was to hear WTO members' views on how to define the services component of the work programme by 31 July, in light of the decisions taken at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference and the General Council on 27 November 2014.
Members welcomed a collective paper by a group of 60 WTO members stating, among other things, their position on what the services component of the work programme should include. This proposal from March 2015 includes a call for developing countries to provide market access in fewer services sectors than those proposed by developed countries and to extend access progressively and on a conditional basis in line with their economic situation.
To narrow the scope of the discussions, a number of members indicated sectors and/or modes of supply where they would like in particular to see new or improved commitments from members. These include express delivery, transport and logistics, telecommunications, computer services, distribution, financial services, construction and energy-related services as well as the temporary movement of contract suppliers and independent professionals (Mode 4, as defined in the General Agreement on Trade in Services, the GATS).
Several members suggested that there should be a discussion on what members want from the negotiations and what they are willing to contribute. As a first step, this could mean that members would provide a list of sectors and modes of supply they are willing to include or improve upon before entering into “request and offer” negotiations. This would help to determine the level of ambition for the services negotiations, they argued.
Several members called for a timeline to be set for members to submit revised and/or new offers in line with the 2005 Recommendations of the Special Session of the Trade in Services Council (Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration).
Members also reiterated their commitment to the Bali decision to support the growth of services trade in least-developed countries (LDCs) by providing services exports from LDCs with preferential treatment. More information here.
Market access and rule-making
Members agreed that market access negotiations in services need to move in parallel with rule-making in services. Agreeing on domestic regulation disciplines would support market access outcomes, several members argued, with some calling for resumption of text-based negotiations. Several members argued that the negotiations should concentrate on those areas where convergence was realistic and doable and omit areas of long-standing differences. On GATS rules negotiations, various members stated that none of the three areas, namely government procurement, subsidies and emergency safeguard measures, are mature enough to form part of the post-Bali work programme.
Services and the other Doha Round pillars
While members acknowledged the importance of the services component of the work programme, some reiterated their call for agriculture and industrial goods negotiations to set the tone for the services negotiations. Others called for the services pillar to be more independent to ensure it does not lag behind.
Chairman Gabriel Duque (Colombia) will produce a factual and non-binding summary report reflecting the statements made by members at this meeting.
A meeting of the Special Session of the Services Council is scheduled to be held in May 2015.
Deadline for post-Bali work programme: July 2015
Learn more about WTO negotiations on trade in services here.