New pathway to step up negotiations on trade in services

Media release

6 July 2012

Trade and Competitiveness Minister Craig Emerson today welcomed a statement by 44 World Trade Organization members — including Australia — which commits them to intensifying negotiations on an agreement on global trade in services.

The statement, released in Geneva overnight, says progress on market access in services among a large number of members had set the base for a broader deal inside the multilateral trading system.

Australia co-chairs the negotiating group with the United States.

The participating WTO members are the United States, the EU (comprising 27 countries), Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong China, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Peru, Switzerland and Turkey.

The negotiating group accounts for 70 per cent of the world’s GDP.

Prime Minister Gillard has been promoting a “new pathways” approach to global trade liberalisation since late last year. The plan involves breaking the Doha Round impasse by concentrating on areas where agreement is most achievable.

Access to services markets is one of those areas, and one of the highest priorities in the Gillard Government’s trade policy statement released in April last year.

“This latest commitment to step up talks on services is encouraging news for Australia’s services sector,” Dr Emerson said.

“Services account for more than three-quarters of Australia’s economic activity, which translates into four in five jobs and over 20 per cent of export revenue.

“Any new agreement would aim to capture the substantial liberalisation of trade in services achieved in recent years,” he said.

“It would include improved market access commitments and new and enhanced trade rules.” 

The statement by WTO members follows the G20 Leaders’ Summit in Mexico last month, at which Prime Minister Julia Gillard secured a renewed commitment from members to new approaches on trade negotiations.

“There is also progress on other elements of new pathways, including on trade facilitation and conditions for least developing countries to accede to the WTO,” Dr Emerson said. 

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