Info Service on WTO and Trade Issues (May15/07)
15 May 2015
Third World Network
South nixes US, EU call for binding autonomous services liberalisation
Published in SUNS #8019 dated 11 May 2015
Geneva, 8 May (D. Ravi Kanth) - A large majority of developing countries
on Thursday (7 May) firmly rejected demands from the United States,
the European Union, and other developed countries for binding the
autonomous liberalisation measures taken by them in the services sectors
after the Uruguay Round of commitments.
The developing countries made clear that they are not willing to undertake
"commitments for free" in the Doha services negotiations,
several services negotiators told SUNS.
The developing countries, especially Brazil, South Africa, India,
and Argentina among others, made it clear that agriculture remains
the yardstick, and at the core of the sequencing framework.
They said that without clarity in agriculture, it would be futile
to discuss elements in the services negotiations at this juncture.
Around 61 members also rejected a demand from Canada which wanted
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Secretariat to circulate the offers
made by developing countries at the signaling conference in 2008.
The developing countries made clear that it is inappropriate to discuss
those offers when the level of ambition was already being lowered
in agriculture and industrial goods.
The developing countries - Brazil, South Africa, India, Ecuador, Barbados
on behalf of the ACP (African, Caribbean, and Pacific) group - also
chided the chair for the Doha services negotiations, Ambassador Gabriel
Duque of Colombia, for issuing a one-sided summary in favour of developed
The developing countries asked the chair to issue a corrigendum or
revision to the summary he had circulated last week, as the summary
he had circulated had failed to reflect their views on the sequencing
and the request-and- offer-based framework of the services negotiations.
At a volatile meeting of the Doha services negotiating body, the differences
over the chair's summary and the demands made by developed countries
resulted in an all-out confrontation which has been rarely seen at
recent meetings of the World Trade Organisation, several services
negotiators told SUNS.
The chair's five-page, non-attributable summary (see SUNS #8014 dated
4 May 2015 for details) had suggested "benchmarking" the
services market access negotiations instead of creating a platform
to discuss the possible elements that would go into the services work
programme by end-July, a developing country services negotiator told
During Thursday's meeting, the US said that Washington would settle
for market access in services if members are willing to "bind"
their current autonomous liberalisation measures of services in sectors,
according to participants familiar with the meeting.
The demand of the US was reflected in the chair's summary: "the
starting point could be existing GATS [General Agreement on Trade
in Services] commitments, taking into account RTAs and autonomous
liberalization to assess how much water could be bound."
The chair's summary had also maintained that "one delegation
proposed a minimum binding of sectors in existing GATS commitments
at the level applied domestically or in its RTAs, followed by a request/offer
process for sectors currently outside the schedule with a view to
achieve bindings at the applied level."
Several industrialised and a few developing countries such as Singapore
supported the US demand for binding autonomous liberalisation of services
on the ground that it would lead to binding of significant portion
of "water" in the GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services)
commitments as "a realistic and doable outcome."
The European Union called for "transparency" and "predictability"
in the services commitments on par with the tariff reduction formula
for market access in agriculture and industrial goods.
The demands made by the US and EU provoked a sharp response from Brazil,
South Africa, and India along with Barbados, the coordinator for the
African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group.
Brazil posed some sharp questions to industrialised countries on the
2008 revised draft modalities in agriculture as well as on the bound
and applied farm subsidies by the US and other industrialised countries.
Brazil asked whether the major industrialised countries are ready
to accept the 2008 revised draft modalities to reduce their domestic
farm subsidies in line with their demands in services. Brazil emphasised
that agriculture is the key to determine the level of ambition for
the entire Doha talks, arguing that without clarity in agriculture
it would be difficult to move in the services negotiations.
South Africa said while no meetings are being held in market access
for industrial goods which is an area of critical concern, an attempt
is being made to determine what members ought to do in services through
the binding of autonomous levels of liberalisation.
India said while members want removal of "water" between
bound and applied commitments in services, they are not prepared to
remove "water" in their aggregate measurement of support
(AMS) for the trade-distorting domestic subsidies.
India also asked whether major industrialised countries are ready
to provide reciprocal concessions in services by removing the visa
restrictions on short-term services providers in Mode 4 in return
for binding commitments at the current applied level for services.
Canada demanded that the World Trade Organisation Secretariat circulate
a paper indicating the commitments made in different sectors at the
2008 signaling conference.
Around 61 developing countries rejected Canada's demand, saying that
those commitments have no relevance in the context of the reduced
level of ambition for "cutting water" in farm subsidies.
Hong Kong-China asked the WTO Secretariat to convene a workshop on
domestic regulation but the US opposed Hong Kong's demand.