The proposal was tabled by Chile, Mexico, New Zealand and Panama and follows up on a previous communication from these members last year, where they suggested that delegations engage in exploratory discussions on market access by exchanging views on current areas of interests across different sectors.
Co-sponsors stressed that the tourism sector, more than many services sectors, relies on trade and is key to the economic vitality of many communities, including in rural and remote areas. Specific data was presented: in 2017, travel and tourism accounted for 3.2 per cent of global GDP, and under a broader definition by the World Tourism Organization that takes into account the impact of travel and tourism across different sectors, the contribution to global GDP was estimated at 10 per cent.
Moreover, travel and tourism directly account for 3.8 per cent of global employment, and more broadly the sector supports one in ten jobs around the world. Projections indicate that the sector will continue to grow rapidly in the coming years and is expected to top 1.8 billion international travellers in the next 12 years, with developing countries playing an increasingly prominent role.
In this context, the paper underlined the important contribution that improved commitments in tourism services under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) could make to the policy environment for the sector by providing greater transparency and predictability. For example, mode 3 (commercial presence) commitments would provide guarantees for the establishment and operation of foreign suppliers and help increase foreign direct investment and local tourism activities, while mode 4 (presence of natural persons) commitments could complement the other modes where in-person delivery of a service is required.
The paper also identifies areas where liberalisation commitments in several other sectors particularly relevant for the industry would support and contribute to the growth of the tourism sector, such as passenger transport (e.g. cruise ships) as well as recreational, construction, convention and car rental services.
At the meeting, various delegations reacted to the paper, providing different views. Some made substantive interventions on their national experiences and informed members of their interests, while others communicated concerns about discussing market access issues in services and pointed to the absence of progress in other areas of negotiating interest.