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WTO members call for reinvigorating discussions on services trade

GENEVA, Switzerland – World Trade Organization (WTO) members brainstormed on ways to reinvigorate the WTO’s work on services trade at a meeting of the Council for Trade in Services on 4 July, in line with recent mandates given by ministers. They also discussed how to increase the participation of least-developed countries (LDCs) in services trade, among other issues.

Follow-up to outcomes of ministerial conferences

The members’ commitment to reinvigorate the work of the Services Council is a follow-up to the mandate contained in the Declaration from the 13th Ministerial Conference (MC13) held in February 2024. In addition to specific work on trade in services, the Council, like other WTO bodies, was mandated to discuss WTO reform, short-term challenges when confronting global and domestic crises, and the WTO response to pandemics. More details on the most recent ministerial mandate for services trade can be found here.

Topics proposed for future consideration on the work on trade in services — potentially through thematic seminars and experience-sharing sessions — include the development dimension of trade in services, trade in services related to the green transition, the cost of remittances, services domestic regulation and artificial intelligence. Several members called for optimizing discussions and avoid duplicating work across different bodies.

Some of these topics were also viewed as relevant to the discussion on challenges when confronting crises. Various members suggested holding thematic sessions or workshops on this topic to provide background for members’ further deliberations.

As part of the pandemic response exchanges, members continued discussing how to wrap up the Council’s work on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on trade in a number of services sectors, among other things. Ministers mandated work on the WTO response to pandemics at the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in 2022 and most recently at MC13.

In line with the mandates given by ministers on WTO reform, members said they are satisfied with the tools implemented to improve the functioning of the Council, notably the use of the e-agenda as a means of facilitating participation by WTO members in the Council’s work.

Increasing participation of LDCs in services trade

Members continued discussing the proposals set out in a communication by the WTO’s LDC Group submitted last December on operationalizing the “LDC Services Waiver”, under which members can notify preferences for LDC services and service suppliers. A total of 51 members have notified preferences so far. The objective of the waiver is to boost the participation of LDCs in services trade. Members reiterated their continued support for putting the waiver into practice at the 12th Ministerial Conference in June 2022 and at MC13.

The decision to formalize the waiver was adopted at the 8th Ministerial Conference in 2011. A total of 35 WTO members are classified as LDCs. More information on the waiver can be found here.

Services trade concerns

Members discussed four previously addressed specific trade concerns. Japan and the United States, supported by several other members, reiterated concerns about the cybersecurity measures of China and Viet Nam. China recalled its concerns about Australia’s 5G measures and repeated concerns with certain measures of the United States. China also reiterated its concerns regarding India’s measures in relation to mobile applications.



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