The U.S. will participate in global talks to lower barriers on trade of financial services and telecommunications, a step toward a deal sought by companies including JPMorgan Chase & Co. and AT&T Inc.
Negotiations will include 20 trading partners, including the European Union, at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk said today in a letter to congressional leaders.
“Every $1 billion in U.S. services exports supports an estimated 4,200 U.S. jobs in America,” Kirk wrote to House Speaker John Boehner and Senate President Pro Tempore Patrick Leahy. The negotiations will begin within 90 days, Kirk said.
Services such as express package delivery, insurance, telecommunications and electronic payments are becoming a growing part of global trade, estimated by the WTO at about $8 trillion in 2011. U.S. exports of private services were worth about $600 billion in 2011, according to Kirk’s office. The U.S. had a $178.5 billion surplus in services trade that year.
The nations working toward an agreement represent about 70 percent of the world’s trade in services, according to the Coalition of Service Industries, a Washington-based group whose members include JPMorgan, AT&T, Microsoft Corp., FedEx Corp. and Aflac Inc.
“We are pleased that the United States is ready to fight for new trade rules to enable the services sector to achieve its potential as the engine of our economy,” Peter Allgeier, a former U.S. ambassador to the WTO and president of the services group, said today in a statement.
Industry groups including the Washington-based U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable, whose members include the heads of companies including Bank of America Corp., Visa Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., cheered the announcement.
“This is a chance to tackle emerging trade barriers in areas such as the digital economy while strengthening the global rules-based trading system,” Myron Brilliant, the Chamber’s senior vice president for international affairs, said in a statement.
Representative Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican and head of the Ways and Means Committee that oversees trade legislation, said the services agreement is a “critical trade policy” that will help create U.S. jobs.
“I am impressed with the group of 21 WTO members thus far that plan to join the negotiations, representing dymanic devleoping and developed markets for U.S. exports,” Camp said in a statement.
Nations in the talks are Australia, Canada, Chile, Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland and Turkey. The EU represents 27 nations.
Brazil, China and India have declined to join, saying the efforts may impede broader global trade talks that have been stalled.
Discussions probably will cover the cross-border movement of financial data, information and communications services, maritime, environmental and energy services and government procurement.