WTO joint statement to enhance transparency in services industry

WTO joint statement to enhance transparency in services industry

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By Lee Kyung-min

Korean firms will be able to expand their overseas business more efficiently, a move outlined in a joint initiative statement signed by 67 member countries of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the trade ministry said Friday.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced the conclusion of negotiations of the Joint Statement Initiative on Services Domestic Regulations, the gist of which involves ways to enhance transparency, predictability, fairness and efficiency for trade authorization and licensing procedures, qualification requirements and technology standards among member countries.

This is designed to lower trade costs, with Korea’s services industries standing to become key beneficiaries including the finance, transport and communications sectors.

The announcement was made during a press conference in Geneva, Switzerland, a day earlier (local time), participated in by 67 WTO members including Korea, the U.S., the European Union, China, and Japan.

The joint initiative seeks to help remove administrative and trade red tape, and buttress greater participation of its members, a path that current members are encouraging yet-to-be members to follow.

The multinational negotiations came four years after the 11th WTO Ministerial Meeting in December 2017, following which the members sought ways to promote cooperation to lower trade barriers.

The first discussions on the initiative took place in 1999, but had remained stalled until the U.S. joined the negotiations earlier this year shortly before the 12th ministerial meeting. Washington’s participation led to swift progress to a conclusion, the ministry noted.

The ministry said the initiative does not mean opening a new services market, adding the significance of the agreement is about creating a norm to increase transparency and openness in domestic procedures in the 78 services sector that are already open. They are about half of the 155 sectors opened under a WTO services trade agreement.

The agreement is not necessarily legally binding, the ministry said, since related clauses dictate that members are to continue efforts “to the extent practicable.”

In accordance with the statement, participating members must provide an update on their progress in completing required domestic procedures and assess whether their specific commitments can be submitted on schedule.

They each have one year before notifying the WTO of the results, meaning the outcome of the negotiations is expected to take effect from December next year.

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