Negotiations for New International Services Trade Agreement Offer Business Opportunities

The Obama Administration has recently announced its intention to begin negotiating a new agreement aimed at promoting international trade in services. These negotiations, which have received strong backing from both the Democratic and Republican leaderships in the Senate and the House of Representatives, will initially involve a total of 21 countries representing over 70 percent of total current global trade in services. The specific countries scheduled to participate in the initial negotiations are the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union (on behalf of its member states), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey. Additional countries are expected to join soon after negotiations begin.

The negotiations are intended to expand and build upon the existing provisions of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) — an agreement of the World Trade Organization (WTO) that currently governs trade in certain services among WTO member nations. Many observers have noted that the GATS, which entered into force nearly 20 years ago, has become less relevant as international trade in services has increased, countries with rapidly growing services markets such as China have joined the WTO, and the emergence of new technologies has expanded the scope of the services sector.

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