The Plurilateral Negotiating Process
The idea of a trade in services agreement was launched by the US. Since February 2012 a group of WTO members meets regularly in Geneva and is under common chairmanship of the US, Australia and the EU. Switzerland participates actively in the discussions from the beginning.
The goal of this initiative is to conclude a comprehensive agreement on trade in services. The work is based on the GATS. Early in the year 2013 the participants have agreed on an approach, which consists of a 'hybrid' schedule of commitments, in which commitments (most-favoured-nation treatment, market access, national treatment, localization) are taken both in a positive and negative manner. Additionally, they have decided on a “ratchet” and “standstill” clause.
Below you will find the outline of the TiSA 'hybrid' approach:
An illustrative list of examples of national treatment restrictions has been developed by the WTO. It is contained in attachment 1 of the "Guidelines for the Scheduling of Specific Commitments" adopted by the Council for Trade in Services in 2001 (S/L/92) and is reproduced below:
At the moment the following parties are taking part in the discussions: Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, EU, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and USA.
In the course of the 4th round of negotiations on June 28 - 29, 2012, the participants of the TISA communicated their intention to define a frame of an ambitious agreement on the trade in services.
In the course of the 11th round of negotiations on June 24 - 28, 2013, and in view of the advanced state of discussions of the agreement's text as well as the end of the necessary consultations of the participating countries the parties have agreed on the ongoing negotiations.
Possible structure content of the draft agreement
Since the negotiation of the draft agreement is still ongoing its structure and content may continue to evolve until the conclusion of the work. Baring the developments during the negotiation the draft agreement may be structured as follows :
- A set of horizontal provisions that would take over the GATS provisions, but that would be complemented by understandings that would modify these GATS provisions, for example by adding to it a mechanism of standstill and ratchet.
- A set of sectoral annexes whose coverage is difficult to anticipate at the moment but that could include, among others, topics such as : financial services, telecommunications services, electronic commerce, movement of natural persons (mode 4), domestic regulation, transparency, localization, the different modes of transportation and logistical services, delivery services, professional services, state-owned enterprises.
- Country specific Schedules of commitments for market access, and national treatment and localization.