TISA Negotiators Report Progress on New, Enhanced Disciplines Talks

8 May 2014

The latest round of negotiations on the proposed Trade in Services Agreement (TISA) came to a close on Friday, with officials reporting good progress in the talks. The week-long meetings, hosted by the Australian mission in Geneva, focused primarily on the part of the text dealing with new and enhanced disciplines, sources say.

 

“I am pleased with the constant progress of the TISA negotiations,” said EU Ambassador Angelos Pangratis, in a post on social media site Twitter. “We are clearly heading towards a comprehensive and ambitious agreement.”

 

The 23-member group, which covers 50 countries – the 28-nation EU being counted as one participant – is negotiating a standalone pact that would liberalise services trade, with the goal of eventually multilateralising the deal in order to extend the benefits to the whole WTO membership, once they reach a critical mass of participants.

 

A week ago, officials from Australia, Colombia, the EU, Turkey, and the US participated in a public information session on the TISA negotiations, midway through last week’s negotiations. The officials – which included ambassadors and chief negotiators from those countries – reaffirmed that the services liberalisation initiative is continuing to advance smoothly, just a year after the talks were formally launched in Geneva. (See Bridges Weekly, 1 May 2014)

 

The next round is set to be held in late June, and will be hosted by the US. While officials remain optimistic about the pace of the talks, given the “constructive spirit” seen among the membership, a deadline has not been set for concluding the TISA negotiations, with multiple sources noting that the substance will effectively determine the timetable.

 

New, enhanced disciplines

 

Four of the five days last week were devoted to discussions of new and enhanced disciplines that would potentially be covered by TISA.

 

The bulk of those discussions, sources familiar with the talks confirmed, focused on texts regarding financial services; telecommunications; e-commerce; domestic regulation and transparency; and air, maritime, and road transport. Initial discussions were also held on competitive delivery services and energy services.

 

Proposals on these areas have been submitted by various participants, with the submitted texts becoming the basis for discussions, with brackets denoting the areas that remain to be negotiated and agreed. The next round of talks is also expected to focus on developing the regulatory part of the TISA text further, sources say.

 

Market access offers

 

One of the days was focused on continuing the discussions on market access offers. TISA participants had held their first formal review of those offers last February, less than a year after the negotiations were formally launched, with 21 of the 23 participants submitting offers for review. (See Bridges Weekly, 27 February 2014)

 

Since then, the US has submitted a revised offer that includes financial services. The two participants that have not yet tabled an offer – Pakistan and Paraguay – did not do so in time for this round.

 

At this stage, sources say, much of the discussion on market access offers is continuing at the bilateral level between meetings, on a request-offer basis. Participants are hoping to establish horizontal benchmarks or objectives in order to reduce asymmetries across the different offers, in order to ensure that everyone has offers of similar levels.

 

China, Uruguay bids

 

Whether and when to admit China and Uruguay into the talks has not yet been confirmed, sources say. While the two bids have received the public backing of the EU, and are supported by various TISA members, the US is still reportedly seeking assurances from both countries that they share the group’s goals and will be able to contribute constructively to the talks.

 

While no other countries have formally declared their interest in joining TISA since China and Uruguay submitted their bids, sources note that the proposed agreement is generating substantial interest from others.

 

“The EU is particularly encouraged by the high degree of interest that TISA is drawing among other WTO members,” said Pangratis, reiterating the EU’s support for both the Chinese and Uruguayan bids.

 

ICTSD reporting.

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