Services have taken on increased prominence in our economies over the past few decades.  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. Understanding the potential that services provide for economic development as well as the role of services in the new structure of international trade and in the operation of global value chains, is essential today for trade policy officials, trade analysts and trade negotiators. ICTSD’s work in the services area aims to advance sustainable development through better-informed trade-related policy making, and by empowering diverse stakeholders to take advantage of services trade opportunities.

The ICTSD research work focuses on increasing knowledge about the new disciplines on services that are being negotiated in the Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the systemic implications of these new initiatives for the global trading system as well as for non-participating developing countries.

ICTSD also explores the contribution of services to the functioning of global value chains (GVCs) and examines how developing and least developed countries can better integrate into these.  Value chains offer possibilities for services firms from the developing world, especially SMEs, to participate in global markets by capturing a ‘task’ in an integrated production network.  Such analysis examines how value chains operate in different sectors, allowing for the identification of more effective domestic policies as well as trade policy to take advantage of these opportunities.

Many low income (LICs) and least developed countries (LDCs) have been expanding their trade in services but have the potential to do much more. To help developing countries take greater advantage of their services sectors, ICTSD provides capacity-building support and carries out relevant policy analysis so as to empower key stakeholders from LDCs and LICs to better understand the variety of ways in which more efficient service sectors to contribute to sustained and inclusive growth. Identifying and understanding regulatory barriers affecting services sectors is a part of this work, as it can help generate momentum for policy reforms to help unleash services potential.