The workshop, entitled "Regulatory frameworks to facilitate trade in services", highlighted the need for more transparent and predictable domestic regulations to help enhance productivity in services and for efficient services to strengthen developing countries' connectivity to the global economy.
"Regulations should serve domestic policy objectives while preserving a level playing field for market competition," Director-General Roberto Azevêdo said in his opening remarks. He added: "Businesses want increased transparency and predictability so that they can make informed business decisions."
The information shared at this workshop could feed into related discussions currently taking place at the WTO, Ismael Ortiz, Chargé d'affaires at the mission of Mexico, said at the opening session. In particular, he said, good regulatory practices, including at the regional and bilateral level, can inspire more transparent procedures and contribute to facilitating services trade.
Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre, who also spoke at the opening session, said that disciplines on domestic regulation can help businesses navigate complex procedures and requirements more quickly and at reduced costs, and become more competitive. She added that women and micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises represent the bulk of the services sector and efficient regulations would be particularly meaningful to them. Services account for 60% of exports from both developing and developed countries, she said, citing 2017 estimates from the World Trade Report 2019.
The lack of disciplines in domestic regulation is the main problem in facilitating trade in services, the Managing Director of the European Services Forum, Pascal Kerneis, said. In the logistics sector, regulatory frameworks are often weak and heterogeneous, notably because of little cooperation between agencies or insufficient regulatory oversight, said Vincent Valentine, Transport Economist at the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
The Deputy Head of the Regulatory Policy Division at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Céline Kauffmann, referred to the need for transparent evidence-based policy by systematically collecting evidence, monitoring and evaluating results of regulation. Work on domestic regulation in the WTO is built on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and is closely aligned with various international instruments of good regulatory practice, the WTO Secretariat explained. This includes work done by the OECD, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the World Bank and many regional trade agreements.
Several service suppliers shared best practices and the challenges they face and made suggestions on how to facilitate their further integration into the global trading system. Ibrahima Diagne, Managing Director of GAINDE 2000, a Senegalese firm specialized in information and communications technology (ICT), explained how it developed a single window to help firms export. System interoperability, the use of international standards and legal compliance of e-signatures for example, are some of the difficulties his company is facing.
Making regulations less burdensome is one important challenge lying ahead, said Rajesh Aggarwal, ITC Chief of Trade Facilitation and Policy for Business section. He added: "Regulatory reform requires finding balance between legitimate regulatory objectives from government and minimizing the cost of compliance for businesses."
The programme of the workshop is available here.