[A2k] Bridges Weekly: TiSA Ministerial Cancelled, Officials To Prepare for 2017

Thiru Balasubramaniam thiru at keionline.org
Thu Nov 24 05:45:57 PST 2016



TiSA Ministerial Cancelled, Officials To Prepare for 2017

24 November 2016

A planned ministerial meeting for countries involved in negotiating a
plurilateral services trade agreement has been called off, sources
confirmed, with negotiators and ambassadors to meet instead in order
to review progress to date and prepare for 2017.

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) has been under negotiation
since 2013 and currently includes 23 WTO members, counting the EU and
its 28 member states as one participant. The group coversapproximately
70 percent of world services trade, with participants making up 65
percent of global GDP.

Sources say that the decision to cancel the ministerial was confirmed
at a TiSA ambassadors’ meeting on Friday 19 November, at which point
they determined that a deal would not be possible this year as
previously envisioned. (See Bridges Weekly, 27 October 2016)

The goal of the ministerial had been to reach a political-level accord
on TiSA, though sources noted that some additional work such as
conducting a legal “scrub” of the text and verifying schedules would
still have required more time.

Remaining work

The reason for the ministerial cancellation, sources say, was partly
due to the need to resolve certain other key issues, such as reaching
an outcome on cross-border data flows and resolving a debate over how
to deal with “new services” in members’ schedules. Some also referred
to potential uncertainty over the position of the incoming US

An outcome on data flows is considered to be pending the submission of
an EU proposal, which is still undergoing internal domestic processes.
When such a proposal – which would aim to balance the interest in free
flows of data with privacy considerations – might secure the necessary
internal approval before being tabled within TiSA for negotiation is
not yet clear.

Resolving a disagreement over the interest some members have expressed
in including a reservation in their schedules for “new services” is
another pending topic.

Some TiSA participants, including the EU, have reportedly included
such a reservation in their offers, while noting that no “new
services” have been created since the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade
in Services (GATS) that do not fall under the existing UN
classification system – suggesting that the issue is more of a
theoretical one.

Given that the TiSA accord takes a “negative list” approach on
national treatment commitments, some other participants such as those
involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) accord have reportedly
argued that keeping such reservations could potentially lead to an
imbalance in commitments and leave a significant loophole open as

However, multiple sources speaking to Bridges confirmed that the
recent weeks of talks had seen positive progress overall, particularly
in light of the negotiating round held in early November. Many areas
are reportedly close to completion, pending additional technical work
and some final political decisions.

The revised market access offers in October reportedly saw some
notable improvements by some participants, which sources said marked
another positive development, while noting that nothing is final yet.
(See Bridges Weekly, 27 October 2016)

Coming up

The upcoming meetings in December will aim to review the progress made
so far, as well as to safeguard these advances in order to resume
talks on that basis next year, though when the talks may continue
exactly is not yet clear.

Sources say that chief negotiators are due to meet in Geneva from 6-7
December, with ambassadors to gather on 8 December. Intersessional
discussions will continue in the meantime to advance technical work.

ICTSD reporting.

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