Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Mar15/05)
27 March 2015
Third World Network
LDCs assess high-level
meeting on LDC services waiver
Published in SUNS #7988 dated 24 March 2015
Geneva, 23 Mar (Kanaga Raja) -- A cluster of meetings of the regular
services bodies at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) last week heard,
amongst others, an assessment by the Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
group of the outcome of a recent high-level meeting on the operationalisation
of the LDC services waiver.
According to trade officials, at the regular meeting of the Council
for Trade in Services on 18 March, the LDCs, in their presentation,
assessed the high-level meeting that was held on 5 February.
The Council for Trade in Services had convened the high-level meeting
on 5 February where a number of developed country members and developing
country members in a position to do so had indicated the services
sectors and modes of supply where they intend to provide preferential
treatment to the LDCs.
Under the Bali Ministerial Decision of 7 December 2013, the Council
for Trade in Services was instructed to initiate a process aimed at
promoting the expeditious and effective operationalisation of the
LDC services waiver.
According to the Decision: "With a view to accelerating the process
of securing meaningful preferences for LDCs' services and service
suppliers, the Council for Trade in Services shall convene a High
level meeting six months after the submission of an LDC collective
request identifying the sectors and modes of supply of particular
export interest to them. At that meeting, developed and developing
Members, in a position to do so, shall indicate sectors and modes
of supply where they intend to provide preferential treatment to LDC
services and service suppliers."
"Members, in their individual capacities, are encouraged at any
time to extend preferences to LDCs' services and service suppliers,
consistent with the waiver Decision, which have commercial value and
promote economic benefits to LDCs. These preferences may accord, inter
alia, improved market access, including through the elimination of
economic needs tests and other quantitative limitations," the
Decision further said.
The non-LDC members on 5 February had made their announcements based
on the collective request that the LDCs had submitted in July 2014
(S/C/W/356) indicating the services sectors and modes of supply of
key interest to the LDC group. (See SUNS #7958 dated 10 February 2015.)
According to trade officials, in its assessment at the Council meeting
on 18 March, the LDC group reflected on the success of the high-level
meeting, saying that it was overall satisfied with the indications
that had come from the members.
The LDC group reported that 25 members had expressed their intentions,
among which 18 had announced specific proposals.
The group is now waiting to see the notifications from the members
on how they will be granting their preferences to the LDCs.
The LDC group further reported that approximately 10 members had referred
to technical assistance initiatives.
It urged members to make concrete proposals now on how to utilise
those proposals. It made a special call with respect to mode 4 (movement
of natural persons).
The LDC group also called on members to reduce administrative barriers
to trade when this does not require changing laws. It is currently
holding some bilateral meetings with members.
(A deadline of 31 July 2015 has been indicated for the official notification
by members of preferences for the LDCs.)
According to trade officials, the first submission was made by Canada
at the Council meeting (S/C/N/792).
Uganda asked Canada to explain more clearly how it will be granting
preferential treatment to the LDCs. It also asked to revert to this
item at the next meeting of the Council.
According to trade officials, the US gave an update on the negotiations
on the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA, which is taking place outside
It said that Uruguay has officially joined the TISA talks, making
it 24 members who are now taking part in the negotiations (counting
the European Union as one).
The US reported that the eleventh round of negotiations took place
in early February and that there were developments in telecommunications,
financial services, mode 4, domestic regulation and on the issue of
transparency. Some additional topics were also covered.
The market access offers are now subject to bilateral discussions
between the TISA members, said the US, adding that the engagement
was robust and encouraging.
The US said that the next round of negotiations will be hosted by
the EU in April, and that it hopes to maintain the momentum that was
achieved in the first trimester of 2015.
Members that supported the TISA talks including Australia, Canada,
Japan, the EU and Chile asked for their previous unchanged positions
on this issue to be recorded in the minutes of this Council meeting.
According to trade officials, those that were opposed to the TISA
talks including Venezuela, Argentina, India, Egypt and Brazil reiterated
that TISA is undermining the multilateral trading system, and that
the WTO should be the only forum to discuss services trade at the
India said that TISA members should not be lobbying for TISA in the
Council, trade officials added.
The issue of E-commerce was also discussed in the Council, with the
US having submitted a paper on cloud computing and privacy protection
at the last meeting in November, namely on the question of how to
achieve a balance between liberalisation in cloud computing and at
the same time protecting the privacy of consumers.
According to trade officials, the US said that its paper is not a
negotiating text, and that it is only a paper to stimulate an exchange
of views on the issue of E-commerce.
Some members welcomed the idea of an exchange of views and that there
could be a seminar organised on this soon.
According to trade officials, Ecuador proposed the holding of a seminar
China said that the US imposes barriers on the international flows
of information data, particularly on technical data. The use of local
infrastructure enables national information security protection, it
Canada said that the liberalisation of E-commerce trade is important
to the country, while Uruguay asked for consumer protection in general
to also be included in the talks.
The EU agreed on the need to strike a balance between facilitating
digital trade and protection of privacy. National security should
not be used for protectionist reasons, it added.
Brazil said that it cannot endorse any prescriptive language pointing
to particular policy directives but it is open to the idea of having
an exchange of views. It however called for the US paper to be more
According to trade officials, India reiterated what it had said in
the Committee on Specific Commitments (CSC) that the inclusion of
new services in members' commitments could undermine the flexibilities
provided to developing countries under the GATS.
To determine whether a services is new, there is need to look at whether
it existed in the classification at the time of scheduling, it added.
At the meeting, the Russian Federation raised the matter of reform
of the unified gas transportation system of Ukraine, alleging that
Ukraine's law (of August 2014) reportedly grants preferential treatment
to investors from, amongst others, the EU and the US.
According to Russia, it violates both the MFN obligations and Ukraine's
market access and national treatment commitments on pipeline transportation
Argentina also voiced its concern and asked for Ukraine's measures
to be notified.
Ukraine said that it was being transparent and that its law had been
developed under severe challenges facing the country, in particular
the threat to its national interests.
According to trade officials, earlier in the Working Party on Domestic
Regulation, with respect to future work, members agreed that the services
part of the (post-Bali) work programme should contain domestic regulation
But a number of them including Ecuador, India, Bolivia, Brazil, South
Africa, Venezuela and Zimbabwe said that until there is more clarity
in agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA), the services
negotiations won't be able to begin.
According to trade officials, there was also a divergence among members
on which text should be used, if a text-based negotiation were to
begin. Most developing countries were in favour of using the text
that was prepared by the Chair in 2009, which according to them contains
a stronger development dimension.
In the Committee on Specific Commitments (CSC), there was a discussion
on new services which reflected the complexity of this item, as constantly
evolving technologies have made it challenging for members to determine
the nature of some services.
According to trade officials, these have implications on how these
services should first be classified and then scheduled, as well as
how the scope of existing commitments should be defined.
The US said that E-books and E-music are not services, even though
some services are involved. It added that cloud computing uses telecoms
services but that does not mean that it must be classified as a telecoms
service per se.
According to trade officials, India and China said that new services
have emerged since the UN classification system (the Central Product
Classification) was introduced. Search engines, for example, was cited
by China as being a new service.
A proposal was made to have a presentation by UN statisticians who
are responsible for the CPC.
The Working Party on GATS Rules continued its work on subsidies, government
procurement and emergency safeguard measures as mandated by the GATS.
According to trade officials, Members called for these discussions
to advance first in the Special Session of the Council for Trade in
Meanwhile, in the Committee on Trade in Financial Services, members
decided to hold a presentation by the Global Forum on Transparency
and Exchange of Information for Tax Purposes at the next meeting.