WTO negotiations on market access
Article XIX of the General Agreement on Trade in Service provides a mandate for WTO members to enter into successive rounds of negotiations to improve their schedules of specific commitments, with a view to achieving a progressively higher level of liberalization. Such negotiations “shall be directed to the reduction or elimination of the adverse effects on trade in services of measures as a means of providing effective market access”. More information on these negotiations is available here. Additional information on the negotiating mandates can be accessed here.
Members' schedules of specific commitments contain the commitments they undertake with respect to market access (Article XVI) and national treatment (Article XVII). Schedules may also contain undertakings relating to additional commitments (Article XVIII).
Negotiations to liberalize market conditions for trade in services have typically been conducted through a “request-offer” procedure. Members send requests directly to each other indicating what improvements they are seeking to schedules of commitments; members then specify in their initial offers how and to what extent they are willing to take binding commitments in response to these requests.
This may set in motion a series of bilateral or plurilateral bargaining sessions. Regardless of which member submits a request, the offer, in the form of an improved “schedule” of commitments, would apply to all members.
Unlike requests, which are not provided to the WTO Secretariat, offers are circulated to all members as a WTO document. At the conclusion of the negotiations, final offers become legally binding commitments.
Full details about the framework of the negotiations are contained in the Guidelines and Procedures for the Negotiations on Trade in Services (S/L/93). Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration provided more detailed negotiating objectives to guide members. The technical aspects of submitting requests and offers are explained in a WTO Secretariat paper.
Over the course of the negotiations pursuant to Article XIX, a total of 71 initial offers and 31 revised offers (counting the European Union as one) had been submitted by 2008, when the last offer was circulated.
Initial offers that have been derestricted by the member concerned are publicly available in the TN/S/O document series.
Revised offers that have been derestricted by the member concerned are publicly available in the TN/S/O rev.1 document series.