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Trade In Services Agreement Talks Progress

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

24 September 2013

The latest plurilateral talks toward a trade in services agreement (TISA) have concluded, with 23 World Trade Organization (WTO) members participating.

Preparatory discussions began earlier this year, after a number of WTO members expressed concerns over the continuing impasse in the Doha Round talks. In June, TISA members announced that they had entered full negotiating mode. The aim is to conclude an ambitious agreement on trade in services amongst themselves, as permitted within the broader WTO parameters.

Commenting on the talks, but without offering any detail on what was debated, Canada's International Trade Minister Ed Fast said: "Canada's participation in these negotiations is a key part of our ambitious pro-trade plan to create new opportunities and new sources of prosperity in every region of the country. Canada's participation in these negotiations keeps us at the forefront of trade liberalization and will help us preserve the Canadian advantage."

Services are not subject to tariffs, but nationality requirements and restrictions on foreign investment can result in barriers to trade. Many national laws and regulations on services are neither fully transparent nor predictable. TISA members represent nearly 1.6bn people and have a combined GDP of more than CAD48 trillion (USD46.6 trillion). In 2012, they exported nearly CAD3.3 trillion in services.

Perrin Beatty, President and CEO of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the talks. Beatty said: "This agreement could unlock the potential of this valuable sector of the economy and lay the framework for modern international services trade. Our members strongly believe that this agreement should address 21st century trade issues, including regulatory transparency and cooperation, cross-border data flows, movement of business persons, and rules for state-owned and -sponsored enterprises that compete in commercial markets."

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