WEB DESK: Pakistan is likely to exclude Israel from its offer on Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) under the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), well informed sources told Business Recorder. Currently, there are 24 participants in TiSA, counting EU as one.
These include: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei (Taiwan), Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union (EU), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Mauritius Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and United States.
The core-text of the agreement, currently under a negotiation stage, will have four parts (ie I-IV). Part I will contain GATS Articles incorporated into TiSA mutatis and part II will contain provisions on scheduling commitments. Part III and IV will be reserved for new and enhanced disciplines and institutional provisions respectively. Apart from the core text, there are now 17 annexes which also are in a drafting stage. These annexes focus on specific issues like financial services, telecommunications, transparency, mode 4, transport, domestic regulations, etc.
According to sources, a draft agreement contains additional ‘standstill’ and ‘ratchet’ provisions implying thereby that the current commitments of a participating member would be bound and any concession extended to any trade partner would have to be extended to all the TiSA members unless some specific exemptions are taken. However, the TiSA text is not final yet and the applicability of these clauses is under discussion. Except for Pakistan, all other members of TiSA have tabled their initial offers which are under negotiation; in the meantime TiSA text is also being finalised. This is an appropriate time for Pakistan to formally join negotiations by tabling its initial offer. It would also enable Pakistan to influence the final text of TiSA, securing market access interests in the services sector and ensuring exclusion clauses regarding extension of Pakistan’s offer to Israel.
TiSA is the most promising opportunity for improvement and expansion of trade in services. The services sector is the world’s largest employer, and produces 70 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP). If TiSA is concluded, it would be covering more than 70 percent of the world’s $44 trillion services market.
Commerce Ministry is of the view that initial offer draft has been prepared according to the required format specific to TiSA, by the Ministry of Commerce in the light of stakeholders’ consultations as well as Pakistan’s earlier commitments and offers under GATS. The offer will not have any legal bearing till the agreement is finalised and duly ratified by Pakistan. By that time Pakistan would be free to alter or completely withdraw this offer at any stage, depending on the direction of negotiations in consultation with domestic stakeholders.
It is pertinent to mention here that during the 8th Ministerial Conference of the WTO in December 2011, Ministers from the member countries acknowledged the impasse in multilateral negotiations on trade in services (GATS – General Agreement on Trade in Services) and committed to going ahead with negotiations in certain areas covered by the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) with the aim of reaching provisional or definitive agreement based on consensus earlier than the full conclusion of the single undertaking. Some WTO members – including Pakistan – floated the idea of a stand-alone agreement on trade in services which is called ‘Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)’. The participants in this initiative were the so-called ‘Really Good Friends of Services’ who showed willingness to advance the services negotiations under DDA.
By Mushtaq Ghuman
Source: Business Recorder