JOINT STATEMENT ON SERVICES DOMESTIC REGULATION

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Negotiated disciplines

The disciplines seek to ensure that domestic regulation procedures for trade in services are clear, predictable and transparent and do not unnecessarily restrain trade. Flexibilities are envisaged to help governments apply the measures and regulate based on their national policy objectives and levels of development.

The coordinator of the negotiations, Jaime Coghi Arias of Costa Rica, said he is encouraged by participants' “broad and steady commitment” to agree on the final parts of the text. “We have made tremendous progress today,” he said. “The United States' announcement moves us a significant step closer to achieving an outcome by MC12. I am optimistic that we will very soon be in a position to issue a clean text of disciplines on services domestic regulation, and thereby conclude work on the text-based pillar of our negotiations.”

The coordinator noted that all delegations that spoke at the meeting expressed support for the provision on non-discrimination between men and women. He said he is confident that on this basis, the bracket around this issue — indicating that the issue is under consideration — could be cleared soon.

Participating members(1) in the negotiations currently account for over 85 per cent of global services trade.

A factsheet on the state of play of the negotiations, their origin and objectives is available here.

US participation

Participants welcomed the very positive signal that the US participation sends for concluding the talks. The US said that after having carefully monitored the negotiations, it is now committed to joining others in striking an agreement by MC12 and underscored the benefits of improved transparency and regulatory processes. The US also highlighted the instrumental role that the provision on non-discrimination between men and women will play in enhancing economic opportunity for workers. This will be the first time that a WTO discipline contains such a provision.

The US encouraged other WTO members to join the talks to broaden the benefits that an outcome would bring for services suppliers globally and urged participants to set the ambitious goal of having most of the top 50 services trading WTO members join the talks.

Draft schedules

A total of 33(2) indicative schedules of commitments have been submitted to the WTO, covering 59 WTO members. They indicate how each government aims to integrate the negotiated disciplines into its WTO commitments.

Saudi Arabia is the latest participant to have submitted its schedule, having provided it on 1 July. The delegation said at the meeting that its schedule reflects its strong commitment to reaching a meaningful outcome at MC12. The US said that work on preparing its draft schedule is under way.

Noting the progress made at the meeting, Mr Coghi called on participants to use the coming weeks to finalize their positions on their draft schedules.

Exchange of experiences on applying domestic regulation measures

Chile and Peru, as well as New Zealand and Colombia, outlined the respective steps they are taking to autonomously apply the disciplines under negotiation. Chile and Peru jointly presented the voluntary registry of engineering professionals under the Pacific Alliance — comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. This registry has a direct relationship with the discipline under negotiation for the recognition of professionals, the speakers noted. The objective is to facilitate the participation of engineering professionals in one or more Pacific Alliance countries.

Colombia said it attaches great importance to the discipline under negotiation concerning setting mechanisms for responding to enquiries from interested service suppliers. The so-called “right of petition” enshrined in Colombia's 1991 Constitution allows any person to submit a petition regardless of their nationality. This includes requesting access to documents or receiving information on laws and procedures. Petitions can be submitted to any governmental authority or agency, any private entity exercising delegate powers, and any private association, company, or other types of organizations.

New Zealand presented its regulatory system, which allows interested stakeholders to comment on proposed new measures before they are adopted. This is consistent with the disciplines currently under negotiation. Based on the comments received, the select committee — comprised of a small group of members of parliament — issues a report with recommended changes to the new bill and explanations on how the issues raised by stakeholders have been addressed.

Other participants shared their implementation experiences at previous meetings, on 10 April and on 10 May, and 10 June.

“The information-sharing exercise shows how the disciplines contain the necessary flexibilities to allow for implementation by members at different levels of economic development and with diverse approaches to services regulations,” said the chair. “It has been particularly encouraging to see developing countries bringing to this exercise various examples from their domestic practices, especially since many of them have in recent years already carried out a great deal of work to reform their regulatory frameworks, with a view to improving the conditions for business operations.”

Background

Ministers from 59 WTO members launched the services domestic regulation negotiations at the 11th Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 in Buenos Aires. Ministers confirmed their commitment to delivering a meaningful outcome by MC12 when they met in May 2019.

Next meeting

The next meeting will take place in September.

Each WTO member's schedule of services commitments made under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) can be accessed here.

The list of all sectors covered by the GATS can be found here.

Notes:

  1. The current participants are: Albania; Argentina; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Brazil; Bulgaria; Canada; Chile; China; Colombia; Costa Rica; Croatia; Cyprus; Czech Republic; Denmark; El Salvador; Estonia; European Union; Finland; France; Germany; Greece; Hong Kong, China; Hungary; Iceland; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Kazakhstan; Korea, Republic of; Latvia; Liechtenstein; Lithuania; Luxembourg; Malta; Mauritius; Mexico; Moldova, Republic of; Montenegro; Netherlands; New Zealand; Nigeria; North Macedonia; Norway; Paraguay; Peru; Poland; Portugal; Romania; Russian Federation; Saudi Arabia, Kingdom of; Slovak Republic; Slovenia; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; Thailand; Turkey; Ukraine; United Kingdom; United States and Uruguay. back to text
  2. The European Union presented one common schedule. back to text

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