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Negotiations on domestic regulation disciplines for services “very advanced” — ChairWTO

WTO members participating in the negotiations on services domestic regulation met on 15 October to advance work on streamlining procedures required for foreign services suppliers to operate and to remove red tape that may hinder trading opportunities. Participants aim to finalize these negotiations by the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference scheduled to take place next year.

A total of 62 WTO members are currently engaged in discussions to develop new disciplines on domestic regulation in services trade. These disciplines apply to licensing and qualification requirements as well as procedures and technical standards for trade in services. The objective is to create good regularity practices that mitigate any unintended trade-restrictive effects of procedures for authorizing the supply of services.

The Chair, Jaime Coghi Arias of Costa Rica, stressed the participants' objective of finalising the negotiating text by the end of the year. “Achieving an agreement on outstanding drafting issues as soon as possible would be of critical importance,” he said.

The disciplines are designed to be compatible with WTO members' diverse regulatory systems and approaches. They provide for built-in flexibilities to facilitate governments' implementation of the measures domestically. They also aim to respond to the practical challenges faced by businesses, particularly those arising from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meetings are member-driven, transparent, inclusive and open to all WTO members. Participating members — both developing and developed countries — account for 72 per cent of world services trade.

Ministers from 59 WTO members launched negotiations at the 11th Ministerial Conference held in December 2017 in Buenos Aires. In May 2019, ministers meeting on the side lines of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development meetings confirmed their commitment to deliver a meaningful outcome by the 12th Ministerial Conference.

The new disciplines under negotiation are set out in a draft Reference Paper. According to the Chair, these negotiations are “at a very advanced stage”. Participating members are also submitting draft schedules on how the disciplines will be incorporated in their respective domestic regulatory regimes under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). A total of 30 draft schedules (representing 57 WTO members) have been submitted so far.

Mr Coghi highlighted delegations' “positive engagement” in the negotiations. He stressed the importance of “continuing internal consultations” and of “looking for concrete solutions” to resolve the remaining differences.

Each WTO member's schedule of commitments can be accessed here. The list of all sectors covered by the GATS can be found here.