WTO Chair to Hold Talks on Jump-Starting Stalled Doha Round Negotiations on Services

Original Publication Date: 
27 Aprile, 2005

GENEVA--The chairman of the World Trade Organization's negotiating group on services said April 27 he will hold informal discussions with member governments in order to sound out ideas on how to jump-start the stalled Doha Round services talks.

Chile's WTO ambassador, Alejandro Jara, the chair of the negotiating group, reiterated his previously stated disappointment with the continued absence of initial market access offers from some 40 countries which were originally due back in March 2003, as well as the poor quality of the offers already on the table.

A number of countries, including the United States, the European Union, Japan, Hong Kong, and Switzerland, voiced their support for the chairman's initiative and stressed their willingness to consider other approaches, according to officials in attendance. Several of them said members would need to consider new 'tools' or 'benchmarks' to help spur the negotiations, although no delegation elaborated as to what form these tools or benchmarks might take.

Different Approach Eyed

Jara's initiative suggests a possible shift away from a pure request-offer approach that has been the basis for the negotiations to date. Under this approach, WTO members put forward market access requests to countries of potential interest. Members then respond to the requests with offers, with the negotiations then taking place on a bilateral basis to narrow the gaps between the requests and the offers.

WTO members are due to submit their revised offers by the end of May. The European Union announced April 20 that it has submitted an initial revised offer to the EU's 25 member states for their approval and would make it public once it has been cleared internally (76 ITD, 04/21/05) .

Not only have some countries with potentially important services markets such as the Philippines, South Africa, Pakistan, and Morocco failed to submit initial offers, but many offers on the table contain no commitments in sectors such as distribution, maritime transport, and construction.

Other sectors where offers are weak include health care, education, environmental services, and postal/courier services.

Developing countries have also criticized the United States and other industrialized countries for failing to offer any substantive offers on the temporary cross-border movement of professionals, known as Mode 4 services supply. Developing countries such as Brazil, India, and China have been pushing for more ambitious commitments in this sector.