A Batch of Plurilateral Services Offers

Original Publication Date: 
28 February, 2006

Geneva - The United States joined the European Union, Japan, Canada and other industrialized nations yesterday in presenting requests under a new plurilateral approach in the stalled Doha Development Agenda services negotiations (WTD, 2/27/06).

Deputy US Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters in Washington that she hoped the moves would give a boost to the talks. Services make up increasingly large shares of economic growth in both industrial and developing countries, she pointed out. The United States will expect developing countries albeit falling under Special and Differential treatment in the current round to take on obligations and provide enhanced market access.

The United States expects to actively participate in talks on telecommunications, financial, computer, distribution, express delivery, energy, environmental, legal, construction, architectural and engineering, audiovisual and education services.

Plurilateral negotiations on telecommunications will be headed by Singapore, while the computer services group is spearheaded by Chile and financial services and architectural engineering by Canada. The EU will lead groups on environmental and energy services. Australia proposed the request for legal services. Taiwan offered the requests on audiovisual services.

Countries targeted for improvements in their service sectors were mostly advanced developing countries including Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, China, members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations; the Persian Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria.

Services liberalization enhances gains from liberalization in goods and agriculture by making the infrastructure of modern economies express delivery services, reliable communications, financial services, transportation services and others more widely available, commented US Ambassador to the World Trade Organization Peter Allgeier.

12 of 19

The United States is party to a dozen of the 18 or 19 requests either offered or in the works, said officials in Washington.

The United States also joined a group of countries in calling for the removal of restrictions in three of the four "modes" of delivery. US officials made it clear that Washington would find it "extremely" difficult to make offers in Mode 4 relating to the temporary transit of service professionals. But Washington intends to press for liberalization in cross-border delivery of services, direct sales and foreign investment the other three modes of delivery in the General Agreement on Trade in Services. It is anxious to get rid of trade barriers like restrictions on in-country establishment, such as prohibitions on branching, national performance requirements and discriminatory regulatory policies.

One group of nations including Japan, the EU, Norway, South Korea and China pressed the United States to reform its business visa system. Another group of industrial and developing countries called on the United States to join in the maritime services talks.

India and Brazil are expected to made a separate Mode 4 request soon.

Services negotiations chair Fernando De Mateo will convene a special negotiating session at the end of the month kicking off a series of "cluster" negotiations through the first week of April.

Yesterday was the deadline for plurilateral services requests agreed by trade ministers during last December's Hong Kong ministerial conference. Ministers set the end of July for responses and final offers by October.