Under discussion was a communication on market access issues related to environmental services put forward by Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. The co-sponsors of the communication underscored the positive linkages between services trade and environmental protection and argued that liberalization of environmental services would contribute to an economically sustainable recovery from the pandemic.
In the classification system used for services in the WTO, environmental services include sewage, refuse disposal, sanitation, noise abatement, cleaning of exhaust gases and environmental protection services. Members had discussed an earlier proposal on environmental services in September 2019. In the paper discussed at the meeting, the co-sponsors put forward a list of other services sectors relevant to environmental issues, such as engineering, architectural, distribution, construction and consulting services, and expressed interest in improved commitments in these areas.
Since the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations concluded in 1994, many members have undertaken environmental commitments in their regional trade agreements that go beyond those made under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
At the same meeting, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand and Uruguay introduced a communication highlighting the importance of agriculture-related services to agricultural production and value chains. They argued that the liberalization of agriculture-related services would help mitigate the health, economic and social challenges arising from the COVID-19 pandemic, notably by reducing bottlenecks in food value chains and strengthening the resilience of food systems across the world.
In their communication, the co-sponsors expressed interest in better GATS commitments in the following services sub-sectors as most relevant for agriculture: services incidental to agriculture; hunting and forestry; veterinary services; commission agents' services; wholesale trade services; and retailing services.
Several members intervened and provided their views on the two communications. Discussions are set to continue at a subsequent meeting of the Special Session later this year.