SERVICES: SECTOR BY SECTOR
Accounting and auditing services constitute the core activities of accountancy firms, but a wide range of additional services may also be offered, most notably merger audits, insolvency services, tax advice, investment services and management consulting. Increasing use of information technology and digital working practices have facilitated the cross-border supply of accountancy services.
Demand for accountancy services stems from clients wishing to fulfil mandatory legal requirements, such as financial reporting, and seeking advice on issues such as bookkeeping. Individuals may be consumers of accountancy services, but the majority of work involves services to enterprises.
Accountancy services are classified under the WTO Services Sectoral Classification List (W/120) as accounting, auditing and bookkeeping services (CPC 862). They include financial auditing services, accounting review services, compilation of financial statements services, and bookkeeping services. A closely related sector is taxation services (CPC 863).
Current market access commitments and most-favoured-nation (MFN) exemptions
76 WTO members had undertaken commitments under accounting, auditing and bookkeeping services. Generally speaking, commitments tend to be somewhat more restrictive for auditing services, and least restrictive for bookkeeping services.
Treatment of the sector in negotiations
After the Uruguay Round, a Ministerial Decision on Professional Services on 4 April 1995 established the Working Party on Professional Services (WPPS) and gave priority to the accountancy sector in the development of disciplines on domestic regulation in the context of Article VI:4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services. In May 1997, the Guidelines for Mutual Recognition Agreements or Arrangements in the Accountancy Sector were adopted, followed in December 1998 by the Disciplines on Domestic Regulation in the Accountancy Sector. In April 1999, the WPPS was replaced by the Working Party on Domestic Regulation.
Accountancy services were included in the services negotiations that began in 2000.
After the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005, a group of eight members prepared a plurilateral request on accountancy services. The request, which indicated the types of improvements the group was seeking in the negotiations, was communicated to another group of about 20 members.
Information on sectoral and modal negotiating objectives expressed by members is contained in reports from the Chair issued in 2005 (TN/S/20 and TN/S/23). For an assessment of the plurilateral negotiations in different sectors and areas, consult the Report by the Chair of the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services to the Trade Negotiations Committee in 2011 (TN/S/36).