Services in EU trade agreements

Trade agreements concluded or being negotiated by the EU cover trade in services. The EU's objective in bilateral trade negotiations is to ensure that EU service providers are allowed to supply services in foreign markets and are not discriminated vis-à-vis national operators or other foreign operators in the same sector.

EU Trade agreements typically include a wide range of regulatory principles in certain key sectors such as

  • telecoms
  • financial services
  • maritime transport
  • digital trade

In addition, the parties of an agreement present in detail their market access conditions in their "schedules of specific commitments".

Trade negotiations on services are neither about privatisation nor about deregulation, but only about progressive facilitation of trade through more openness to foreign services suppliers.

How do EU trade deals cover trade in services and investment? 

There are, broadly speaking, two key categories of commitments

  • the Market Access Commitment
  • the National Treatment Commitment

Market Access Commitment

This is the commitment to let each other's services suppliers or investors have access to the domestic services market and not to impose quantitative restrictions, such as limitations on

  • the number of suppliers or service operations
  • the total value of transactions
  • the participation of foreign capital by quantity

National Treatment Commitment

This is the commitment to treat foreign services suppliers or investors no less favourably than one’s own service suppliers or investors. 

Each Party can set conditions or exceptions to its commitments, often referred to as ‘limitations’ or ‘reservations’. Commitments and exceptions are inscribed in so-called schedules, which form an integral part of the trade agreement.

Even if a Party does not include exceptions in its schedule – and takes what is called a "full commitment" - it does not mean that the sector is or will be deregulated. 

The Party can continue regulating that sector but it will have to do so without imposing quotas or discriminating, so the rules should apply in the same way to domestic and foreign service suppliers and investors alike. 

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