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Harper Government’s Ambitious Plan to Open New Markets Takes Action to Liberalize Trade in Services

Key WTO countries moving forward toward an agreement to facilitate global services trade

March 18, 2013 - The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today announced that Canada will join 20 other World Trade Organization members, including the European Union, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Turkey and the United States, in negotiations toward an agreement on international trade in services. Canadian officials are in Geneva this week to lay the groundwork for negotiations.

“Our government is focused on creating jobs, economic growth and long-term prosperity for Canadians in every region of the country,” said Minister Fast. “Services represent almost 70 percent of the Canadian economy and are responsible for nearly four in five Canadian jobs, employing 13.5 million workers. It is vital for Canada’s economic success to continue to be at the forefront of reducing barriers to trade.”

A comprehensive and forward-thinking agreement on trade in services will provide increased access to and legal stability in markets that are open but not subject to trade agreements. However, these negotiations will not force Canada to make commitments in any area where it chooses not to, such as public services.

“A high-quality international agreement that will liberalize trade in services will lead to new and exciting opportunities for Canada’s small and medium-sized enterprises and boost trade in Canada’s financial, engineering, energy, mining and environmental services sectors,” said Minister Fast. “As part of the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canadian history, our government will continue to expand Canada’s global trade and investment footprint.”

In 2011, Canada exported a total of almost $83 billion worth of services. It is the world’s fourth-largest exporter of engineering services and a significant exporter in several other sectors, from mining to finance to information technology.

“These negotiations are a welcome step forward for international trade and economic development,” said Michael Landry, Manulife Financial’s Vice President, Corporate Development, and Chair of the Canadian Services Coalition. “Services are a vital and growing component of the Canadian economy. Today they represent almost two-thirds of our GDP, yet movement on this front has long been stalled by the Doha Round. The Canadian Services Coalition is pleased that the Canadian government is prepared to be at the table for these important negotiations, and we look forward to the rapid conclusion of an ambitious and comprehensive agreement on services.”

As part of its domestic consultation process, the Harper government has launched a public consultation with businesses, citizen-based organizations and individual Canadians, as well as provincial and territorial governments, to obtain their views on a potential international agreement on trade in services. Public consultations will run until April 30, 2013.

Please visit Consultations on a Plurilateral International Services Agreement for more information on the consultations.

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A backgrounder follows.

For further information, media representatives may contact:

Rudy Husny
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
Follow us on Twitter: @Canada_Trade

Backgrounder - Negotiations for an International Agreement on Trade in Services

Since 2000, Canada has been participating in WTO general agreement on trade in services (GATS) negotiations, which are part of the Doha Round negotiations.

In early 2012, a group of WTO members with a strong interest in services started discussing new approaches to advancing the liberalization of trade in services while the Doha Round is at an impasse. Discussions revealed that members of this group are willing to pursue an ambitious agreement on trade in services among themselves, as permitted under the GATS rules. This consensus gained momentum during fall 2012, and negotiations are expected to start in March 2013.

Although 21 WTO members, including Canada, are currently involved in this initiative, there is general agreement to remain open to other WTO members that wish to join and that share the group’s objectives. The other participants in the discussions are Australia, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.