PositionWorld Trade Organisation

The European Commission has asked the Council for the green light to reopen negotiations on a new international agreement to liberalise trade in services. Discussions on this agreement were launched in 2012 by a group of World Trade Organisation (WTO) members billing themselves as the 'really good friends of services' (RGFS) in an attempt to break the stalemate that followed the collapse of the Doha Round of trade negotiations. The aim of relaunching these discussions is to obtain an agreement from all members of the WTO, which would be inscribed within its system of multilateral agreements.

Currently, the RGFS includes 21 WTO members - the EU only counts as one member, and there are therefore 48 member countries - but other countries are invited to join at any time. The members of the group are: the EU, Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Tapei, Colombia, Costa Rica, Hong Kong, China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Pakistan, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the US. In 2010, these countries accounted for around two-thirds of global trade in cross-border services (beyond intra-EU trade). Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht said: 'The perspective of a new broad-based trade in services agreement is excellent news - for jobs and for economic growth'.

Negotiations will cover all services sectors, including information and communication technology (ICT), logistics and transport, financial services and services for...

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