Saturday, July 19, 2008

Concerns about WTO draft agreement on services

The release of the draft text had taken many countries by surprise as the delegations were reportedly not informed nor were all members consulted, and some even accuse the Chair of lack of transparency. Some member countries such as Bolivia, Cuba and Venezuela, which have been opposing a services text on the ground that it is inappropriate and unnecessary since the 2005 Hong Kong ministerial had already concluded the modalities, have expressed surprise. But the new draft had been agreed on July 15 to by ambassadors of the Enchilada Group (India, China, Pakistan, Philippines, Japan, the EU, the US, Canada, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and some others).

Paragraph 4 of the draft text has become the most contentious. Developed countries demand a comparable level of ambition in services as in agriculture and Nama. This means that developing countries should agree to bind their current actual level of liberalisation as well as offer more market access and national treatment commitments.

It may be worthwhile for you at this juncture to have a glimpse of what are the various ‘modes’ in services. The WTO’s site explains it very well. Take a look here. Look at the offending paragraph in the same page for reference.

India is pushing for a services text and therefore is unlikely to oppose the said paragraph.”