Consultations on a Plurilateral International Services Agreement

The Government of Canada is seeking the views of Canadians on the negotiation of a plurilateral international services agreement among a group of World Trade Organization (WTO) members.  The current participants in these discussions with Canada are Australia, the United States, the European Union, New Zealand, Korea, Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Chinese Taipei, Japan, Hong Kong China, Norway, Switzerland, Pakistan, Israel, Peru, Costa Rica, Turkey, Panama and Iceland. However, other interested WTO members could potentially join the negotiations and a finished agreement would also be open for accession to other WTO members.

Background

Canada has been participating in WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations – which are part of the Doha Round negotiations – since 2000, based on extensive Canadian stakeholder consultations on all sectors and all WTO members. In early 2012, a group of WTO members who share a strong interest in services started discussing new approaches to advance the liberalization of trade in services while the Doha Round is at an impasse. Discussions have revealed that the members of this group are willing to pursue an ambitious agreement on trade in services amongst themselves, as permitted under the GATS rules. These discussions gained momentum during the fall 2012 and negotiations are expected to start in early 2013. While 21 WTO members are currently involved in this initiative, there is general agreement to remain welcoming to other WTO members that wish to join and who share the objectives of the group.

For Canada, services are an important and growing part of our economy. Canada’s firms are active around the world in industries ranging from mining to the financial sector to information technology. For instance, Canada is the 4th largest exporter in the world of engineering services. Although Canada is already a significant services exporter in several sectors, it has much potential to grow. As the vast majority of services firms are SMEs, a stable and predictable global trade environment is necessary for them to pursue new markets. A plurilateral international services agreement will complement other initiatives that the government of Canada is taking to open up markets and potentially provide more market access and legal stability where markets are already open but not subject to trade agreements. However, these negotiations will not force Canada to take commitments in any area where it chooses to retain policy flexibility (e.g. public services).

Submissions by interested parties

While extensive consultations on Canada’s services interests and priorities were conducted in the context of the WTO Doha negotiations, new consultations are needed to update and adapt the Canadian position to this new initiative. Therefore, the Government is embarking on a public consultation process to allow all interested stakeholders an early opportunity to provide input on a potential plurilateral international services agreement (see Canada Gazette Notice: Consultations on a Plurilateral International Services Agreement). In this context, we welcome advice and views on any priorities and objectives relating to this initiative. This includes the following:

  • The identification of services sectors, activities and markets of export interest among WTO members for Canadian service providers and measures that restrict or otherwise affect market access for Canadian service providers.
  • Any barriers or experiences regarding the different modes of supply of services as defined in the WTO:
    • Identification of barriers to the temporary entry and stay of business persons faced by Canadian service providers in WTO member markets, such as impediments to entering or working in a country on a temporary basis, including licensing, certification, work permit and other work authorization requirements.
    • Identification of investment barriers faced by Canadian service providers in foreign countries, including restrictions imposed on foreign ownership or entry to market, questions of transparency of regulation, performance requirements (e.g. local content requirements, use of local labour and services), and any other impediments/barriers.
    • Experiences regarding barriers to the cross-border trade in services faced by Canadian service providers in other WTO members, such as licensing or residency requirements.
  • Other barriers (e.g. availability and transparency of information) when selling or attempting to sell services to governments of WTO members.  

Examples of services sectors in the WTO include Information and Communication Technology (ICT) services, transportation, financial services, professional services, environmental services and energy services.

Although the deadline for receiving input and comments was April 30, 2013, we are still accepting submissions. Please be advised that any information received as a result of this consultation will be considered as public information, unless explicitly stated otherwise. Submissions should include

  • the contributor’s name and address and, if applicable, his/her organization, institution or business;
  • the specific issues being addressed; and
  • precise information on the rationale for the positions taken, including any significant impact it may have on Canada’s domestic or foreign interests.

Additional Information

Additional information on Canada’s relationship with the countries participating to this initiative can be found on the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service website.

For more information on WTO members, the GATS and the various services sectors, please consult the WTO website.

Contact Point

Contributions may be sent by e-mail, facsimile or mail to:

Trade Negotiations Consultations (PISA)
Trade in Services Division (TMS),
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada,
Lester B. Pearson Building,
125 Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0G2.
Fax:  613-944-0058
Email: TMSconsultation@international.gc.ca