To: FONASBA Members
Cc: FONASBA Executive Committee
Cc: ECASBA Advisory Panel
Having received a request from our colleagues in Spain for an update regarding the current status of negotiations on the Trade in Services Agreement, and as the subject may be of interest to all FONASBA members, we are circulating the following brief summary for information.
Background: The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a trade agreement under development by 23 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO), that, taken together, account for 70% of world trade in services. Those countries are: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, the 28 EU Member States, Hong Kong China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mauritius, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. The draft agreement is based on the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which involves all WTO members. The key provisions of the GATS – scope, definitions, market access, national treatment and exemptions – are also covered in this Agreement. TiSA’s stated aims include opening up markets and improving rules in areas such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and professionals moving abroad temporarily to provide services.
Current Status: Whilst the agreement was making progress throughout 2016, it stalled following the election of US President Donald Trump as a result of his scepticism towards international trade deals, including both TiSA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP. As a result of this a number of other parties to the agreement, including the EU, have taken a step back from the negotiations and are deliberately holding back from any further engagement with the process. So far as maritime issues are concerned, the initial proposals put forward by Norway (the lead on maritime issues in the negotiations) and supported by the EU, have since been considerably watered down. For example, a number of reasonably specific definitions, such as “international maritime transport supplier”, “feeder services” and “maritime offshore services”, have been deleted and rather more generic definitions have been introduced. Should these be retained should the negotiations restart, there is considerable scope for unintended consequences. The original agreement also included unrestricted access to international markets and trades and the use of cargo sharing agreements but some countries, including the US, have stated they oppose same. Access to the use of ports and port services, maritime auxiliary services and multimodal transport are, however, supported by most states.
Further information on the agreement can be found at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trade_in_Services_Agreement (this is a rather sceptical summary of the process that tends to concentrate on the more controversial aspects) or from the European perspective: http://ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/tisa/index_en.htm
I trust this short summary serves to update members on the current (stalled) status of the negotiations. As soon as they resume, we will monitor developments and keep members updated.
JONATHAN C. WILLIAMS FICS