In this informal meeting, 33 WTO members shared their views on how to shape the services component of the work programme by the deadline of July, following the decisions taken at the 2013 Bali Ministerial Conference and the General Council on 27 November 2014.
Members reiterated the urgency to meet the July deadline, echoing Director-General Roberto Azevêdo’s call on 17 June for members to make “the tough political calls”. Chairman Gabriel Duque of Colombia framed the discussions around the four major areas of services negotiations:
- Market access
- Domestic regulation
- GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services) rules on government procurement, subsidies and emergency safeguard measures
Members focused on market access negotiations and domestic regulation, while recognizing that GATS Rules negotiations are not mature enough to form part of the work programme. Several members called for resuming text-based negotiations.
Members frequently referred to the importance of Annex C of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration, which provides useful guidelines for further work, including on flexibilities for developing countries. Several delegations suggested timelines for members to submit revised and/or new market access offers.
Supporting the growth of LDC services exports: the WTO’s Least-Developed Countries (LDC) Group outlined, in a paper, ways to help members notify how they intend to provide services exports from LDCs with preferential treatment. It states that Australia’s notification of 29 May 2015 is a useful example of how notifications should be structured. More here.
Members reiterated their commitment to the Bali Ministerial decision that encourages the granting of preferential treatment to LDC service suppliers.
Several members suggested that the work programme should refer to the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific countries) group of countries’ proposal that states their position on what the services component of the work programme should include.
Waiting for progress in other areas: in light of the absence of progress in the negotiations on agriculture and industrial goods, several members said that the level of ambition in services could not be higher than in these areas. They reiterated that “the lights need to flash” in these talks before members can decide what will happen in the services negotiations. Several delegations reiterated their call for the services negotiations to be more independent to ensure they do not lag behind. One member said that clarity in the services element of the work programme is needed to achieve a balance with the other pillars.
Chairman Gabriel Duque will continue consulting with members in various formats.
Deadline for post-Bali work programme: July 2015
Previous meeting report.
Learn more about WTO negotiations on trade in services here.