Land transport

The land transport sector covers a wide range of activities which often have little in common. Some types of transport are highly capital-intensive (rail transport, pipelines), others require relatively little investment (taxis, trucks, coaches). Some employ large numbers of people (a rail company may employ as many as several hundred thousand people) whereas labour costs are of only marginal importance for others (pipelines).

Some land transport activities are subject to planning considerations and the need to provide a public or universal service (urban public transport, passenger rail transport) whereas others are purely market activities (pipelines, freight transport by road and rail).

The degree of concentration is also extremely variable.  Some activities are in the hands of monopolies or oligopolies (pipelines, rail transport) due to their reliance on networks while others may be carried out by companies of various sizes or even by individuals (taxis, urban and suburban road passenger transport, road haulage).

Land transport services in general are described in document S/C/W/60 whereas aspects specific to rail transport are addressed in document S/C/W/61.

In order to gain a better understanding of the international road transport regulations, the WTO Secretariat, the International Transport Forum, the World Bank and the International Road Transport Union made a systematic effort, starting in 2009, to collect bilateral road freight transport agreements. They have so far collected over 600. The text of these agreements is contained in the LIBRA (List of Bilateral Road Agreements) database, which is freely accessible to the public.

Current commitments and exemptions (as of end-2020)

For road transport, as defined by 11.F of W/120, 49 members (EU-25 counted as one) have undertaken commitments while 38 members have listed most-favoured nation (MFN) exemptions in this sector.

For rail transport, 32 members (EU-25 counted as one) have undertaken commitments. These have mostly been on maintenance and repair (i.e. 20 for freight and 18 for passenger transport). MFN exemptions have been listed by nine members.

For pipeline transport, 16 members (EU-25 counted as one) have undertaken commitments, including one on transit, while one member has listed an MFN exemption.