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Goods and services | Brussels, 13 April 2015

EU to chair the next round of plurilateral talks on services

The 12th round of negotiations for an international agreement on trade in services, known as TiSA, begins today in Geneva under the chairmanship of the European Union.

The talks this week will focus on:

  • financial services,
  • telecommunication,
  • domestic regulation,
  • maritime transport,
  • movement of natural persons as services suppliers, i.e. so called 'mode 4'.

The negotiators will also review the progress made so far. This will include a discussion on market access offers, as most participants, with the only exception of Pakistan, Paraguay and Uruguay, have now tabled their opening bids.

Taking its turn as a host and chair of the five-day gathering, the EU wishes to start preparations for a stocktaking exercise planned for July. The aim is to define the perimeter of the agreement and identify the key 'deal-breakers' in each sector under discussion.


TiSA and the EU

The EU participates actively in the negotiations supporting an ambitious and open TiSA.

For the EU, trade in services is of strategic importance, the sector accounting for some three-quarters of EU gross domestic product (GDP) and of EU jobs. Within the EU, cross-border trade in services accounts for around 30% of EU trade, and Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Services (to be covered by the scope of the future agreement) represents around 70% of the EU's FDI flows and around 60% of our FDI stock.

In addition to the benefits that TiSA will deliver to the EU services sector, it should also strengthen the multilateral trade system. The EU has actively advocated letting other interested WTO members join the TiSA negotiations. The EU is pleased that Uruguay joined the negotiations and that Mauritius, the first ACP and the first African country, submitted a formal application. This should be a step towards making TiSA a fully multilateral agreement.

The EU aim in the negotiations is to raise the level of ambition of all participants, current and the future, so that the level of commitment they will take on market access and national treatment is similar for everyone.

The EU wants TiSA to include clear market access standards. These would, for instance, ensure that whenever a services company establishes a subsidiary in another country participating in TiSA, it will be able to bring the necessary personnel to ensure an adequate management of its subsidiary. The EU would also like TiSA to end foreign equity caps, including on sectors such as telecommunication.

At the same time, the EU wants TiSA not to go beyond real trade issues, like for example publicly-funded health services or insurance portability. The EU will not compromise the high quality of its public health services in a trade agreement. For more details, see the press release of February this year.

What is TiSA?

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 24 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) including the EU with its 28 Member States counted as a single participant. Together, these countries account for over 70% of world trade in services.

TISA continues attracting new partners. During the last round, the participants welcomed the representatives of Uruguay. China and Mauritius asked also to join the talks in the near future.

Although the negotiations do not fall under the remit of the WTO, the EU makes all the efforts to ensure that the TiSA is compatible with the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which involves all WTO members. The key provisions of the GATS – scope, definitions, market access rules, national treatment and exemptions – are also part of TiSA. Guarantee that the agreement is GATS compatible will not only make it open to other WTO members who wish to join later, but also make it easier to integrate it into the WTO.

The talks are based on proposals made by the participants. The future agreement will be a result of negotiations among all the parties, and it is clear that not all proposals will be reflected in the final outcome. TiSA aims at opening up markets and improving rules in areas such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and professionals moving abroad temporarily to provide services

To learn more about EU interests and specific proposals in the TiSA negotiations, please see our website.