Maritime transport

Maritime transport has undergone considerable expansion in recent decades, thanks to the growth of trade and globalization.

Often dubbed the ôlife blood of world tradeö, shipping remains the dominant mode of international transport for traded goods and constitutes the backbone of global supply chains. It accounts for more than 80 per cent of the volume of world trade.

International shipping is highly liberalized, and many restrictive maritime policies have disappeared or ceased to be applied.

Maritime transport is an area where negotiations were extended after the Uruguay Round, with a view to improving the commitments included in members' Uruguay Round schedules. Negotiations covering international shipping, auxiliary services, and access to and use of port facilities were originally due to end in June 1996 but participants failed to agree on a package of commitments. Talks resumed when the services round of negotiations started in 2000.

Current commitments and exemptions

As of end-2020, 58 members (counting EU-25 as one) currently have commitments on maritime transport. Members can follow the Services Sectoral Classification List (W/120) or use the so-called maritime model schedule (MMS). Among members with commitments, 29 followed the W/120, 22 the MMS, and seven a combination of both.

Treatment of the sector in negotiations

The principles of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) apply to trade in maritime transport services, as for all services. The specific regime for maritime transport services in the negotiations is defined by the Annex on the Negotiations on Maritime Transport Services and the Decision of the Council for Trade in Services contained in S/L/24.

Maritime transport services, like all services covered by the GATS, were included in the services negotiations that started in January 2000.

Following the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference Declaration of 2005, groups of members with an interest in maritime transport prepared two separate plurilateral requests, which were addressed to specific members.

These requests recommend the use of the maritime model schedule. They called for the elimination of cargo reservations and restrictions on foreign equity participation and for the right of a foreign company to establish a commercial presence both for international freight transport and for maritime auxiliary services. They also sought additional commitments on access to/use of port services and multimodal transport services as well as for the elimination of exemptions to the most-favoured-nation (MFN) obligation.