Services trade issues get less attention at WTO despite having over 20 pc share in world trade

PTI | Abudhabi | Updated: 28-02-2024 11:17 IST | Created: 28-02-2024 11:17 IST
Services trade issues get less attention at WTO despite having over 20 pc share in world trade

Trade in services such as movement of skilled professionals accounts for over 20 per cent of the global commerce but the sector is still not getting sufficient attention in the negotiations of the WTO, according to experts and officials.

The experts also said that developed or rich member nations of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are only interested in pushing their own non-trade agenda and not focusing on issues which really need special focus of the Geneva-based multi-lateral body.

Trade ministers and officials of the 166-member WTO are gathered here to discuss wide ranging issues such as agriculture, and fisheries subsidies.

The 13th ministerial conference (MC13) of the WTO on Wednesday entered the third day. MC is the highest decision making body of the global trade watchdog.

''There are enough issues related to trade are there to discuss in the WTO like sanitary and phytosanitary issues, technical barriers to trade and mutual recognition agreements (MRAs), but the developed nations want to push new issues,'' an international trade expert, who did not wish to be named, said.

Sharing similar views, an official said that there are no discussions on services trade in terms of how this can be improved.

''There are no talks on that. They are not talking about MRAs, about mobility issues, how the mobility issues will be tackled. They are not discussing the issues which are restrictive for the developing nations,'' the official said.

Another expert said that issues like the movement of care-givers from emerging nations to rich nations needs attention as countries like India have demographic dividend for another 25 years and the EU has demographic deficit.

''But they are not willing to accept immigration or mobility rules,'' the official added.

Economic think tank Global Trade Research Initiative (GTRI) said that services trade account for over 20 per cent of the world trade and despite that it is mired in non-transparent domestic regulations that impede the cross-border trade.

''It receives far less attention at WTO meetings resulting in insignificant progress on critical issues of importance to developing countries. The only issue that gets priority treatment is extension of the moratorium on customs duties on electronic transmissions as it is of interest to the USA, EU and other developed countries,'' GTRI Founder Ajay Srivastava said.

The customs duty moratorium is a temporary measure to prevent countries from imposing import taxes on digital products like software, music and movies.

India, Indonesia, South Africa and many other countries are opposed to the extension which has been renewed every two years since 1998.

''However, it is expected that extension may be agreed for another two years in the spirit of bonhomie and consensus building,'' Srivastava said.

He added that so far there is no progress in the MC13 on a proposal of the G-90 (group of 90 nations which consists of developing countries) for enhancing existing flexibilities and exemptions for developing countries in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

''This could involve longer transition periods for implementing GATS commitments, greater flexibility in domestic regulations affecting services and technical assistance, and capacity building for developing countries,'' Srivastava said.

India had earlier floated a proposal on trade facilitation in services (TFS).

India's objective behind this proposal is to initiate discussions on comprehensively addressing the numerous barriers -- both at the border and behind it -- that hinder the full potential of services trade across all modes of supplies.

''The TFS draft emphasizes the need for a counterpart agreement in services, which could lead to a reduction in transaction costs associated with unnecessary regulatory and administrative burdens related to trade in services,'' he added.

By proposing rules for the four modes of services categorized under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), India aims to facilitate smoother and more efficient cross-border services trade.

India always pushes for smooth cross-border movement of skilled service providers such as IT and medical professionals, teachers and accountants.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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