WTO members discussed a new communication from China that highlights the economic importance of logistics services and the relevance of members' commitments under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The paper also points to the need to lower trade barriers in this sector.
The paper outlines the evolution and diversification of the sector over the years, with the emergence of new suppliers and the greater use of new technologies. It notes the importance of the sector for trade in goods and supply chains as well as its contribution to e-commerce activities. The paper also discusses the significance of WTO members' commitments in this sector under the GATS and encourages members to exchange views on their experiences in relation to these commitments.
WTO members also debated a new communication tabled by Australia, Canada, Switzerland and the United Kingdom calling for discussions on market access issues related to financial services. Ranging from insurance and banking to asset management and financial advisory services, financial services are a key enabler for economic growth and global trade, including merchandise trade, the paper notes. It also underscores the sector's role in helping members mitigate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the paper, the co-sponsors draw attention to the possibility for improvements to members' market access commitments in the financial services sector. They suggest an exchange of views on the topic, taking into account the economic, policy and technological developments the sector has undergone in recent years.
Members continued debating a communication tabled by Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and Uruguay stressing the importance of agriculture-related services to agricultural production and value chains.
The paper draws members' attention to services related to agriculture, hunting and forestry, veterinary services, and distribution services of agricultural and food products such as commission agents' services, wholesale trade and retailing. The paper also underscores the importance of agricultural services to members' economies and livelihoods, particularly in light of the health, economic and social challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.
In her concluding remarks, the Chair of the Special Session of the Services Council, Ambassador Zhanar Aitzhanova of Kazakhstan, said that the meeting helped delegates to better understand the market access interests of various members. It provided an opportunity to hear about key developmental considerations and the importance of the sectors under discussion to trade and economic growth, including in the context of the pandemic. The meeting also allowed some members' reservations to be heard about negotiating or further opening these sectors. The Chair encouraged delegations to “continue engaging with one another and to reflect on how best to pursue discussions in the new year”.