Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Nov15/07)
11 November 2015
Third World Network
LDCs welcome efforts on services waiver, but more needs to be done
Published in SUNS #8128 dated 5 November 2015
Geneva, 4 Nov (Kanaga Raja) - The Least Developed Countries (LDCs)
Group at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has welcomed what it said
are real efforts by members to implement a pledge to provide services
and services suppliers from the LDCs with improved market access,
but cautioned that more needs to be done.
At a meeting of the Council for Trade in Services on 2 November dedicated
to the services waiver for the LDCs, Ambassador Shameem Ahsan of Bangladesh,
speaking on behalf of the LDC Group, said the group applauded the
efforts so far to make this pledge a reality.
According to trade officials, Amb. Ahsan said that there is now "ample
evidence on [the] table" to show that WTO members are committed
to advance services supply by the LDCs.
He however cautioned that more needs to be done. In this context,
he highlighted amongst others that definition of preferences was not
clear, and called for the notifying member to spell out clearly where
the changes are in the GATS schedule.
According to trade officials, the LDC Group also outlined a proposal
for a possible decision on the LDC services waiver at the upcoming
Nairobi Ministerial Conference.
Trade officials said that the LDCs have proposed an extension of the
waiver period to 15 years from the date of submission of each notification
(as opposed to the current 15-year lifespan of the waiver as from
the date of its adoption in December 2011), and a definition of the
term "preferential treatment" in relation to the waiver.
Meanwhile, the Council approved notifications submitted by China,
Iceland, India, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey containing preferences
that go beyond market access commitments.
The Chair of the Council, Ambassador Martin Eyjolfsson of Iceland,
earlier informed members that 17 WTO members have now submitted notifications
outlining how they will provide preferential treatment to LDC services
and service suppliers.
The members that have submitted notifications are Canada; Australia;
Norway; Korea; China; Hong Kong-China; Chinese Taipei; Singapore;
New Zealand; Switzerland; Japan; Mexico; Turkey; the United States;
India; Chile; and Iceland.
The Chair also said that Brazil has just forwarded its notification
to the WTO secretariat.
Brazil later said that its notification was expected to be circulated
in the coming days.
According to trade officials, the European Union said that it was
confident that it would be able to submit its notification soon.
South Africa said that its notification was in the final stages of
According to trade officials, Uganda, on behalf of the LDC Group,
gave a detailed assessment (reportedly in an 80-page powerpoint presentation)
of the notifications that have been received to date.
The assessment covered 16 notifications, with Canada being excluded
(reportedly the LDC Group indicated that Canada's submission did not
meet the requirement of specificity).
According to trade officials, the LDC Group said that the number of
notifications received was "impressive" considering that
no progress was made on the issue in the first three years after the
waiver was adopted, and that it showed that WTO members were committed
to the integration of LDCs into the multilateral trading system.
The LDC Group further said that a number of sectors sought by the
LDCs in their collective request of July 2014 for the operationalization
of the services waiver were strongly reflected in the notifications
and that all modes of services supply are variously featured.
According to the Group, around 54 percent of the collective request
appears to be considered in the notifications, although more needs
to be done to address requests related to non-market access concerns
(visas, work permits, residence permits and recognition of professional
qualifications and accreditation).
Some of the pledges outlined in the notifications went beyond the
existing commitments in members' GATS schedule of commitments or beyond
the preferences pledged at the 5 February high-level meeting on the
services waiver. (See SUNS #7958 dated 10 February 2015).
According to the LDC Group, clarifications are however needed -- some
notifications do not spell out precisely how a preference will operate
for LDCs, and few contained commitments that went beyond market access.
According to trade officials, concerns were also expressed about the
lack of commitments covering Mode 4 (movement of natural persons).
Members that submitted notifications provided some initial clarification
regarding the commitments they have offered.
They said that they were prepared to discuss the concerns of the LDCs
According to trade officials, India said that the questions that have
been posed by the LDC Group regarding its notification will be sent
The US, in reference to some of the comments made on Mode 4, maintained
that its notification clearly has Mode 4 in every entry, said trade
Australia said that it was prepared to work with the LDC Group on
drafting a "Ministerial Declaration on LDCs and Trade in Services"
for the Nairobi Ministerial Conference.
It said that members needed to look beyond the waiver and address
issues such as supply-side constraints and technical assistance in
order to help the LDCs benefit from the new market access opportunities.