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The EU and the WTO | Geneva, 5 February 2015

EU offers Least Developed Countries preferential market access for services

As part of its ongoing efforts to help least developed countries (LDCs) better integrate into the global economy, the EU this week offered them preferential access to the EU market in a wide range of services.

The EU used a high-level WTO meeting in Geneva on 5 February to signal its willingness to allow professionals from such countries to provide short-term services in the EU. The move responds to a commitment made at the 2013 WTO Ministerial Conference in Bali and to a list of needs identified by LDCs last summer. Some 15 other WTO members present also indicated their willingness to offer preferential access to the least developed countries.

'I'm encouraged that the meeting produced so many positive signals from WTO-members – both developed and developing – to help the least developed countries,'said Cecilia Malmström, EU Commissioner for Trade, welcoming the outcome. 'For its part, the EU has put together a package that responds to what these countries have said they need – even if this means touching upon sensitive areas for us. With this, we will help the least developed countries better integrate in the world trading system, and move one step closer to delivering on the Doha Development Agenda objective of focussing on development.'

The EU's offer covers services broadly. In some 30 important sectors or subsectors LDC services companies will, for example, be able to transfer management trainees to their affiliated companies in the EU and allow them to get up to one year of experience there. LDC companies with a contract to provide services will be able to send skilled professionals to the EU to provide these services for up to six months. Likewise, independent professionals from LDC countries will be able to provide services in the EU for up to six months at a time in a wide range of services sectors, including architecture, engineering, research and development and management consulting, and computer services.

Ugandan Minister of Trade Industry and Cooperatives, Amelia Kyambadde, in her role as coordinator of the LDCs explained how access to services markets could help services suppliers from LDCs.

The EU emphasized the importance of capacity building to make sure that LDCs reaped maximum benefit from the preferential access. In his statement Angelos Pangratis, EU Ambassador to the WTO, recalled that the EU and its Member States provide approximately 60% of global trade-related assistance.

Background

At the WTO Ministerial Conference held at Bali in December 2013 the Council for Trade in Services was instructed to convene a High-level meeting six months after the submission by the LDCs of a collective request for preferences. At the High-level meeting, “developed and developing Members, in a position to do so, shall indicate sectors and modes of supply where they intend to provide preferential treatment to LDC services and service suppliers”. The meeting was held in Geneva on 5 February. Having signalled the areas in which they are prepared to provide LDCs with preferential access to their services markets, WTO members now have to formally submit its preferences to the WTO.