Brussels, 25 January 2005
The EU today submitted requests for improved market access for services to 103 WTO Members. The presentation of revised requests by the EU gives an important boost to the DDA by providing focused and targeted information to assist the EU’s WTO partners in the preparation of their revised offers for May. Those requests will be discussed bilaterally in Geneva during February.
By taking this next step in the services negotiations, the EU confirms its ambitions for the Round: seeking to reduce restrictions and expand market access opportunities for European services providers and, at the same time, through increased competition bring lower prices and more choice to consumers and business in third country markets. EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson said: “So far, progress in services negotiations in the Doha Round has been slow. We need to ensure that services negotiations match the ambition of other negotiating areas such as agriculture. All WTO members have an important stake in these negotiations, particularly developing countries. The revised EU requests make clear the scope of EU ambition for a successful round. Our trading partners should be equally ambitious.”
The requests generally cover the following sectors: professional services, other business services, telecommunications, postal and courier services, distribution, construction and related engineering services, financial services, environmental services, tourism, news agency services and energy services.
The EU does not seek commitments that would dismantle or undermine public services, nor is its aim to privatise state-owned companies. No requests are, for example, being made on health services or audiovisual services to any country. Only the US receives a request on higher education services, but this is limited to privately-funded education services.
The EU has also incorporated a high emphasis on development in crafting its requests. The EU's initial requests of July 2002 to developing countries took account of the level of development of individual members. Generally for developing countries, the EU sought commitments in fewer sectors and modes of supply. For the least developed countries (LDC), the EU requested targeted market access commitments in very few sectors.
In today’s revised requests the EC firmly sticks to its approach of taking account of the level of development of individual countries. For many of the more vulnerable members, particularly LDCs, the EU is submitting requests in only a very limited number of sectors that provide essential infrastructure for economic development, such as telecommunication, financial services, transport, construction and environmental services.
We are asking them to make offers in only two sectors of their choice out of these five. These sectors are vital for improving LDCs’ trade capacity.
In order to allow each country to decide with no undue external pressure how to develop their offers, the EU will not make the individual requests publicly available. The EU is making available a comprehensive summary of the revised requests on the DG Trade website at:
Services are critical for any economy. The services sector is already contributing more to economic growth and job creation worldwide than any other sector. In the EU services constitute the single most dynamic economic activity accounting for at least two thirds of GDP and employment. A substantive outcome for services is therefore critical for a balanced outcome of the current round.
Negotiations to further liberalize trade in services were launched in 2000, but have been rolled into the current multilateral trade round, referred to as the Doha Development Agenda (DDA), and they now form part of the so-called “single undertaking”. In accordance with the terms of the Ministerial Declaration of November 2001 launching the DDA, the EU had submitted its initial requests to its WTO partners in July 2002. This was followed by the tabling of the EU offer in April 2003.
After the September 2003 Cancun Ministerial Conference ended in deadlock, various efforts were undertaken to put the negotiations and the rest of the work programme back on track. These efforts resulted in the conclusion of package in July/August 2004 (“July package”) and while this decision has brought renewed momentum to the negotiations, services are currently at risk from falling behind the other negotiating areas. Not enough offers have been submitted so far and the quality of most of those that have been tabled is poor. The EU has already demonstrated its ambition by bringing to the table an offer containing very substantial improvements and its offer is still unmatched by most offers on the table. The wide imbalance in the quality of offers is not sustainable.
Under the terms of the July package, revised offers are due to be tabled in May 2005. The EU hopes that the tabling of revised requests, clarifying the kinds of commitments it is seeking from its trading partners, will attract revised offers in May that will provide a meaningful improvement in market access.