Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May15/06)
15 May 2015
Third World Network
Discussions on services component of post-Bali work
Published in SUNS #8019 dated 11 May 2015
Geneva, 8 May (Kanaga Raja) - An informal meeting of the Special Session
of the Council for Trade in Services on Thursday showed continuing
differences among members, with key developing countries making clear
that progress on agriculture and the US-EU concessions therein will
be the yardstick for progress in other areas of the Doha negotiations.
Both the Chair's attempt (in the non-attributable summary of the post-Bali
discussions on services circulated on 27 April) and the efforts of
the US, Australia, the EU and other developed countries for an overall
imbalanced outcome, by getting more concessions from developing countries
in services, proved non-starters, according to some participants.
The informal meeting was the first since members began discussing
(on 20 April) the services pillar of the post-Bali work programme
on the remaining Doha Development Agenda (DDA) issues, with a July
2015 deadline (set by the November 2014 General Council decision)
for members to agree to this work programme.
According to trade officials, while welcoming the start of substantive
discussions, the Chair, Ambassador Gabriel Duque of Colombia, said
that this did not mean however that they were achieving a consensus
on a work programme.
He noted that there were differences on key issues such as whether
members engage immediately on substantive issues related to market
access and domestic regulation of services or to await an outcome
on agriculture and non-agricultural market access (NAMA).
According to trade officials, while some new ideas were put forward,
there was also opposition.
Canada wanted the secretariat to prepare a paper outlining the sector-by-sector
commitments that members have proposed as part of their current services
offers, Australia mooted dedicated talks on the "doable and realistic"
in domestic regulation, while Hong Kong-China suggested a "refresher"
briefing on discussions on domestic regulation.
The Chair, according to trade officials, said as suggested by some
members, he will consult on how this could be done, and asked members
to come up with any ideas or suggestions.
According to trade officials, in the summary of the (20 April) discussions
issued on 27 April, the Chair had said most delegations wished to
see a realistic, doable and balanced work programme, and that most
delegations believed the services negotiations need to be calibrated
with those in agriculture and NAMA.
[The Chair had on 27 April issued a five-page non-attributable summary
setting out what he viewed as the positions held by members. According
to this paper, the views of the developing countries differed from
those of the developed countries. A large majority of developing and
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) had reportedly demanded that Annex
C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration must remain the basis for
drawing-up the post-Bali work programme on services. For more details
on the Chair's non-attributable summary, see SUNS #8014 dated 4 May
The discussions at the informal meeting on Thursday however showed
that the key sticking point continues to be the "sequencing"
of the services negotiations vis-a-vis those on agriculture and NAMA,
said trade officials.
According to trade officials, Australia, Switzerland, Pakistan and
New Zealand noted the comments made by Director-General Roberto Azevedo
at the Trade Negotiations Committee (TNC) meeting on 27 April, where
he had suggested that members should avoid any kind of de-facto sequencing.
Paraguay and Chinese Taipei said that developments in the other negotiations
should not hinder work on services.
The EU, trade officials said, felt the vast majority of members were
ready to engage on services, while Canada, Chile, Singapore and the
Russian Federation wanted focussed discussions on market access and/or
domestic regulation. Turkey, Japan and Korea were ready to engage
in substantive discussions.
Saudi Arabia said additional efforts were needed to secure the work
programme by July.
However, a number of key developing members including Argentina, South
Africa, Ecuador, Uruguay, Brazil and Bolivia made clear that they
were not prepared to move forward on services until the outcomes in
agriculture and NAMA were clear.
India said that members needed to distinguish between the discussion
on the work programme and actual negotiations, and it was strictly
against any approach which would lead to negotiations at this stage.
According to trade officials, India also rejected any outcomes on
market access based on benchmarks or on the removal of "water"
(meaning committing at the WTO any autonomous liberalisation it may
have done, above its requirements in terms of its current GATS schedule).
Both South Africa and Brazil said that they were not prepared to consider
any additional concessions beyond those in their existing offers.
According to trade officials, the US said that it was disappointed
that prospects for achieving an ambitious outcome in services was
fading and if new market access gains were unlikely, members should
at least be able to reduce the gap ("water") between current
WTO market access commitments and actual practices.
China said it was willing to engage in substantive discussions with
any member, even though it was becoming more apparent that the final
result might be more "toned-down" in ambition.
Uganda, for the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), stressed the importance
of members meeting the goal of notifying to the WTO by the end of
July which areas they would provide preferential access to LDC service
According to trade officials, many developing countries stressed the
need to respect Annex C of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.
South Africa said that the modalities must remain one of "request-offer"
as set out in Annex C, while Saudi Arabia said this approach remained
the main negotiating approach.
According to trade officials, India pointed out that the modalities
of the services negotiations were settled a long time ago in Annex
C of the 2005 Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.
China said that the request-offer approach should continue to be the
main method of negotiations, and that Annex C must continue to be
the basis for the discussions.
According to trade officials, Bolivia, El Salvador and Kenya also
highlighted the importance of Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial