The U.S. Coalition of Services Industries said it’s pleased with how quickly World Trade Organization members seeking to reach an accord on services trade approved a framework to start negotiations.
The governments have been participating in exploratory talks on liberalizing services trade since February. Tim Yeend, Australia’s WTO ambassador, told the global trade body’s Services Council yesterday that an agreement in principle had been reached on a framework that would lead to the start of talks in early 2013.
“We find this to be very, very encouraging,” CSI President Peter Allgeier, a former U.S. ambassador to the WTO, said by phone today from Geneva. “This is faster movement than we would have anticipated, and the degree of collaboration and cooperation is also very encouraging.”
The group of 21 governments agreed on five goals for the discussions, including cobbling together an ambitious accord that doesn’t exclude any industry. Any deal would be open to other countries, particularly developing economies, and include market-access pledges that correspond with actual practice.
“If these 21 members can come up with a meaningful agreement, that in itself would be a very big success,” Allgeier said. “More countries have joined and a number of countries are following this very closely and considering whether they might join.”
Three of the world’s fastest-growing emerging economies, Brazil, China and India, aren’t involved in the discussions. They say the plurilateral negotiations will impede efforts to reach a global trade deal as part of the WTO’s Doha Round.
CSI Chairman Sam Di Piazza disagreed. “We’d love to see Doha have a realistic chance, but the world is moving and changing and services has grown dramatically over the last decade or two and it affects every sector,” said Di Piazza, who is also vice chairman of Citigroup Inc. (C)’s institutional clients unit. “We’re enthused about the fact that, from a business perspective, we can move at a fast pace.”
WTO members participating in the exploratory talks are the U.S., the European Union, Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan and Turkey.
The 21 governments, which represent 50 countries, account for about 70 percent of global commerce, Allgeier said.
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