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TWN Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (Feb08/11)

20 February 2008


Please see below an article on the question of a services text.  It was published in SUNS on 7 Feb. 2008.

Any reproduction requires permission of SUNS (sunstwn@bluewin.ch).

Best wishes
Martin Khor
TWN


Chair to issue only report, not text, on services
Published in SUNS #6409 dated 7 February 2008
By Martin Khor, Geneva, 6 Feb 2008

The Chair of the WTO's Doha negotiations on services, Ambassador Fernando de Mateo of Mexico has announced his intention to issue only a report of his consultations on a services text, rather than to come out with the expected Chair's text on services. The report is expected to be issued next week.

This was informed to WTO members at the end of an informal open-ended services meeting held at the WTO on 4 February.

Developed countries, led by the US, EC and Japan had led a move last year to get a text on services in which they wanted to get commitments from developing countries to open up their services markets, in a form of "benchmarking" that they had tried but failed to get before the Hong Kong Ministerial in 2005.

Developing countries have been reluctant for such a text to be issued, arguing that the modalities for services had already been settled, especially in Annex C of the Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration.

Venezuela, Bolivia and Cuba had continued with their firm opposition to any services text. The US, EC, Japan and 7 other countries two weeks ago came out with a draft of a text, committing WTO members to bind their present level of liberalisation and national treatment, and then to go further by removing or reducing barriers in services sectors.

Three groups of developing countries also presented their versions of a draft text - 18 small economies; Brazil, India and others; and Chile, Singapore and others.

At the 4 February meeting, the four papers were presented and discussed. Then at the end of the meeting, according to a trade diplomat, the Chair said that he would issue a report next week which would contain the following:

-- An indication that three countries (Venezuela, Cuba and Bolivia) opposed the idea of a Chair's text.

-- An identification of areas where there is a convergence on what should be in a Chair's services text.

-- An indication of areas where there is no convergence on a text.

-- An annex of members' proposals.

Diplomats said the implication is that there would not be a Chair's text on services, at least not at this stage.

Some diplomats speculated that the decision of the Chair could have been influenced by the debate on what should or should not be included in the "horizontal process" in which selected delegations in a Green Room are expected to discuss agriculture, NAMA and possibly other issues.

Director-General Pascal Lamy is said to be in favour of restricting the number of topics in order that there be a better chance that a deal can be struck. However, the EU and US are keen to have services on the table, and other delegations also want other issues included.

Diplomats said that De Mateo's decision not to issue a services text at this stage may have been influenced by Lamy's reported desire not to cloud the horizontal process's agenda with too many issues. +

 


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