WTO – Trade in Services Agreement

Formal negotiations on a plurilateral Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) were launched in Geneva on 28 June 2013 between 50 WTO members. The common framework for the negotiations is based on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

Formal negotiations on an international Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) were launched in Geneva on 28 June 2013 between 50 WTO members. The common framework for the negotiations is based on the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

The negotiations were initiated in response to the lack of progress in the Doha Round of trade negotiations in the WTO. The 2011 WTO Ministerial Conference acknowledged the need to find alternative ways of achieving the objectives of the Doha Round. Moreover, global trade in services is becoming increasingly important, and the international rules need to be adapted to developments since GATS was negotiated in 1995.

The export of services is becoming increasingly important for value creation and employment in Norway, particularly in the maritime, telecommunications, energy and financial services sectors. It is clearly in Norway’s interest that Norwegian service providers have access to other markets on the same terms as competitors from other countries. Binding obligations make rules more transparent and economic activity more predictable, while reducing the likelihood of differential treatment, arbitrary practices and corruption.

 
Review over participants in the Tisa negotiations
The participating countries (in blue) in the TiSA negotiations. (Map: Torbjørn Vagstein, MFA)

Participants
Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, the EU-28, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the US are participating in the negotiations. China and Uruguay have indicated that they would also like to participate.

Framework and objectives
A group of countries came together in spring 2012 to discuss the possibility of an agreement on trade in services between interested WTO members. In December 2012, they agreed on a framework for the negotiations. The TiSA participants have agreed to negotiate a comprehensive agreement that covers all service sectors and modes of supply.  

The aim is for the agreement to be compatible with GATS and for it to attract broad participation and support the multilateral trade regime. As far as possible, the parties will commit themselves to maintaining the transparent regimes for trade in services that have already been achieved through reform and bilateral trade agreements, and to considering further liberalisation.     

The negotiations also provide an opportunity to develop new provisions relating to specific sectors and areas where the trade rules need to be updated. These include financial services, ICT services (including telecommunications and electronic commerce), professional services, maritime transport, air transport, competitive delivery services, energy-related services, the movement of persons, public procurement and requirements regarding good administrative practice (domestic regulation and transparency disciplines). Many of the annexes to the draft agreement have been inspired by existing free trade agreements.

Other WTO members who agree with the objectives of the participating countries as set out in the framework and who wish to participate may be included in the negotiations later in the process.