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Implemented jointly by ICTSD and World Economic Forum, the E15Initiative (E15) convenes world-class experts and institutions to generate strategic analysis and recommendations for government, business, and civil society geared towards strengthening the global trade and investment system for sustainable development.

The E15 Expert Group on Services met for the first time in Geneva on Thursday, May 15 and Friday, May 16 to discuss the role of services in a changing global trade system. In the globalised economy of today, services account for two-thirds of world output and employment, 60 percent of world FDI flows, and nearly half of world trade as measured on a value-added basis. Despite the growing importance of services in the world economy, nothing substantively has happened on services in the WTO since the launch of the Doha Round. 

There has been no progress on disciplines and no new multilaterally agreed market access. None of the “unfinished business” has been completed with regard to services disciplines (domestic regulation, subsidies, safeguards, and government procurement) and no new disciplines relevant to current concerns about services trade have been proposed to update the GATS (data flows and forced localisation, local content requirements, electronic commerce and state-owned enterprises). Many new services, such as express delivery, energy or environmental services are not covered by the GATS as the classification list has not been updated since 1991. Effectively, negotiations related to services have been frozen in the WTO and there seems to be no sign of progress or forward movement.

In light of this stalemate, 50 economies have come together to negotiate a plurilateral services agreement called the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA). In addition, preferential trade agreements and investment treaties covering new rules and negotiating approaches on services trade have proliferated. The resulting systemic implications of such treaties on the multilateral trading system have not been considered in-depth.

Against this backdrop, the Services group’s main objective is to develop a set of ideas, solutions, and proposals, on how international cooperation through the WTO and other mechanisms for integration will promote the contribution of services to growth and development. These ideas will ideally result in a menu of concrete proposals and can reflect different approaches and views. The group is not expected to arrive at consensus, but rather to reflect the best thinking in the field. The set of proposals should refer both to short term and medium term action, including options to carry into the WTO’s tenth ministerial conference (MC10) in 2015.

Attendance at this event was by invitation only. 

Geneva, Switzerland
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Thursday, 15 May 2014 - 9:00am to Friday, 16 May 2014 - 12:00am