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This article is presented to you in collaboration with the European Commission.

A group of 67 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), including the EU, today concluded negotiations on a landmark deal aimed at cutting red tape in trade in services. The so-called Joint Initiative on Domestic Regulation of Services will simplify unnecessarily complicated regulations and alleviate procedural hurdles faced by SMEs in particular. This agreement will help reduce the costs of global trade in services by more than US $ 150 billion each year.

This is the first result of the WTO in the area of ​​trade in services for a very long time. Good regulatory practices are crucial for the functioning of today’s economy. The clear rules on transparency and authorization in services agreed under this initiative will greatly facilitate trade in services. Especially for small and medium-sized businesses that don’t have the same resources and experience to deal with complex processes as their larger competitors.

In addition, the agreement will help the EU with regard to the digital agenda, as sectors such as telecommunications, IT services, engineering and commercial banking stand to benefit. It is also the first time that a WTO text includes a binding provision on non-discrimination between men and women.

Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis noted: “This is a major achievement. Today’s agreement covers 90% of global trade in services and it will unlock billions of euros in growth through clearer rules, more transparency and less red tape. This will help our SMEs in particular to thrive on the global stage. We have been at the forefront of this initiative, which is also a priority under our renewed EU trade strategy. “

Services are the largest and most dynamic sector in today’s economy, but complicated rules and procedures have severely limited the volume of trade in services. This initiative will align qualification requirements and procedures, technical standards, licensing requirements and procedures for service providers.

Next steps

WTO members participating in this initiative will make specific commitments by the end of 2022 to facilitate trade in services in their markets, for example by simplifying authorization procedures or ensuring transparency. Adopting and implementing the disciplines of the guidance document will significantly reduce trade costs for service providers and thereby assist the industry in its post-COVID-19 recovery. This is a sector where women entrepreneurs often play an important role. The reference document recognizes this role by ensuring non-discrimination between men and women in the authorization process. This is the first rule of its kind at the WTO.

These new commitments will be included in each member’s GATS schedules. Each WTO member has such schedules submitted to the WTO, which form the complete set of all commitments that WTO members make to allow foreign service suppliers in their markets. The new commitments made under this initiative will apply to service suppliers of any other WTO member, on the basis of the so-called most-favored-nation principle.

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