The disciplines under discussion are intended to facilitate trade in services and to increase transparency and predictability. The disciplines relate to licensing and qualification requirements for service providers as well as the procedures and technical standards for supplying services. The objective is to create good regulatory practices that help mitigate any unintended trade-restrictive effects of procedures for authorizing the supply of services.

At a meeting on 10 December, participants agreed to clarify in the negotiating text that the disciplines build upon the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and do not diminish any obligations contained in the Agreement.

The Chair commended delegations for “resolving all drafting issues”, with only a few remaining brackets indicating areas where agreement still needs to be reached. According to some participants, these matters may be more easily resolved closer to the finalization of the talks.

Participants stressed the relevance of services domestic regulation as well as the feasibility of an outcome for MC12. Looking ahead to 2021, they emphasized the need to invite other WTO members to join the talks and to reach out to the business community to raise awareness of the disciplines.

Participants are in the process of submitting indicative draft schedules outlining how the disciplines will be incorporated in their respective commitments under the GATS. A total of 30 draft schedules (representing 57 WTO members) have been submitted so far.  Participants in the meeting invited other interested members to submit their indicative draft schedules as soon as possible in 2021.

Consisting of both developing and developed countries, 63 participants(1) are currently committed to achieving an outcome in these negotiations. They account for more than 73 per cent of world services trade. The meetings are member-driven, transparent, inclusive and open to all WTO members.

The disciplines are designed to be compatible with WTO members’ diverse regulatory systems and approaches. They complement the obligations contained in the GATS and provide flexibilities to help governments implement the measures domestically.

Background

Ministers from 59 WTO members(2) launched negotiations at the 11th Ministerial Conference in December 2017 in Buenos Aires. In May 2019, ministers meeting on the side-lines of a meeting of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) confirmed their commitment to deliver a meaningful outcome by the 12th Ministerial Conference.

More information on the negotiations on services domestic regulation can be found here.

Next meetings

The next meetings are scheduled for 4 February, 4 March, 14 April and 10 May.

Notes

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