WTO news: what’s been happening in the WTO

2 April 2001

WTO services talks press ahead

Members adopt negotiating guidelines at Special Session, 28-30 March

The WTO negotiations on trade in services gathered pace with the adoption of the negotiating guidelines and procedures and the completion of the stocktaking exercise by the Special Session of the Services Council at its meeting of 28-30 March.

“Agreement on the guidelines marks the fulfilment of a key element in the negotiating mandate,” said Mike Moore, WTO Director-General. “The way is now open for governments to move forward from the rule-making phase of the negotiations — though that work will also continue — into the market access phase, on the basis of Members' negotiating proposals.

“One significance of the guidelines should not go unnoticed,” Mr Moore emphasised. “Governments have unequivocally endorsed some of the fundamental principles of the GATS: Governments’ right to regulate and to introduce new regulations on the supply of services in pursuit of national policy objectives; their right to specify which services they wish to open to foreign suppliers and under which conditions; and the overarching principle of flexibility for developing and least-developed countries.”

At the end of the 3-day meeting, the Chairman of the Services Council, Ambassador Sergio Marchi of Canada, praised Member governments for the thoroughly positive and constructive spirit in which they had completed the stocktaking of the first year of negotiations. They had in general expressed strong satisfaction with the work done so far, together with the determination to complete outstanding tasks. The large number of negotiating proposals submitted — some 70 proposals by more than 40 Members — with the promise of many more to come, was an indication of commitment which had been welcomed by many delegations.

With regard to the future work programme, the Council had agreed to hold negotiating sessions in May, July and October, during which, in addition to its standing agenda, the Council would consider the negotiating proposals in detail. Further meetings would be held in December and in March 2002, at which point the Council would review progress in the negotiations.

Attached is the text of the Guidelines and Procedures for the Negotiations on Trade in Services as agreed on 28 March 2001.

Guidelines and procedures for the negotiations on trade in services back to top
Adopted by the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services on 28 March 2001

I Objectives and Principles

Pursuant to the objectives of the GATS, as stipulated in the Preamble and Article IV, and as required by Article XIX, the negotiations shall be conducted on the basis of progressive liberalisation as a means of promoting the economic growth of all trading partners and the development of developing countries, and recognizing the right of Members to regulate, and to introduce new regulations, on the supply of services. The negotiations shall aim to achieve progressively higher levels of liberalization of trade in services through the reduction or elimination of the adverse effects on trade in services of measures as a means of providing effective market access, and with a view to promoting the interests of all participants on a mutually advantageous basis and to securing an overall balance of rights and obligations.

The negotiations shall aim to increase the participation of developing countries in trade in services. There shall be appropriate flexibility for individual developing country Members, as provided for by Article XIX:2. Special priority shall be granted to least-developed country Members as stipulated in Article IV:3.

The process of liberalization shall take place with due respect for national policy objectives, the level of development and the size of economies of individual Members, both overall and in individual sectors. Due consideration should be given to the needs of small and medium-sized service suppliers, particularly those of developing countries.

The negotiations shall take place within and shall respect the existing structure and principles of the GATS, including the right to specify sectors in which commitments will be undertaken and the four modes of supply.

II Scope

There shall be no a priori exclusion of any service sector or mode of supply. Special attention shall be given to sectors and modes of supply of export interest to developing countries.

MFN Exemptions shall be subject to negotiation according to paragraph 6 of the Annex on Article II (MFN) Exemptions. In such negotiations, appropriate flexibility shall be accorded to individual developing country Members.

Negotiations on safeguards under Article X shall be completed by 15 March 2002 according to the Decision adopted by the Council for Trade in Services on 1 December 2000. Members shall aim to complete negotiations under Articles VI:4, XIII and XV prior to the conclusion of negotiations on specific commitments.

III Modalities and Procedures

The negotiations shall be conducted in Special Sessions of the Council for Trade in Services, which will report on a regular basis to the General Council, in accordance with decisions taken by the General Council.

Negotiations shall be transparent and open to all Members and acceding States and separate customs territories according to Decisions taken in this regard by the General Council.

The starting point for the negotiation of specific commitments shall be the current schedules, without prejudice to the content of requests.

Liberalization shall be advanced through bilateral, plurilateral or multilateral negotiations. The main method of negotiation shall be the request-offer approach.

There shall be appropriate flexibility for individual developing country Members for opening fewer sectors, liberalizing fewer types of transactions, progressively extending market access in line with their development situation and, when making access to their markets available to foreign service suppliers, attaching to such access conditions aimed at achieving the objectives referred to in Article IV.

Based on multilaterally agreed criteria, account shall be taken and credit shall be given in the negotiations for autonomous liberalization undertaken by Members since previous negotiations. Members shall endeavour to develop such criteria prior to the start of negotiation of specific commitments.

The Council for Trade in Services in Special Sessions shall continue to carry out an assessment of trade in services in overall terms and on a sectoral basis with reference to the objectives of the GATS and of Article IV in particular. This shall be an ongoing activity of the Council and negotiations shall be adjusted in the light of the results of the assessment. In accordance with Article XXV of the GATS, technical assistance shall be provided to developing country Members, on request, in order to carry out national/regional assessments.

To ensure the effective implementation of Articles IV and XIX:2, the Council for Trade in Services in Special Session, when reviewing progress in negotiations, shall consider the extent to which Article IV is being implemented and suggest ways and means of promoting the goals established therein. In implementing Article IV consideration shall also be given to the needs of small service suppliers of developing countries. It shall also conduct an evaluation, before the completion of the negotiations, of the results attained in terms of the objectives of Article IV.

While the Council for Trade in Services in Special Sessions may establish subsidiary bodies as it deems necessary, the proliferation of such bodies should be avoided to the maximum extent possible. Existing subsidiary bodies shall be utilised to their maximum capacity.

The needs of smaller delegations should be taken into account, e.g. by scheduling meetings in sequence and not in parallel.

The Council for Trade in Services in Special Sessions shall, when appropriate, develop time schedules for the conduct of the negotiations in accordance with any relevant decisions taken by the General Council.