This outreach event at the WTO Public Forum presented emerging findings from the project “Support to Enhance Development of Trade in Services Negotiations”, underscoring the importance of services data collection and analysis and inclusive institutional mechanisms. Services represent an increasing share of trade and, while developing countries are willing to be part of the game, their participation in services trade negotiations is faced with many challenges. For instance, they find it difficult to assess competitiveness in Mode4 and hence difficult for us to develop related negotiating positions, since data on this Mode is not captured in existing datasets. The joint project by ILEAP, CUTS and the University of Sussex’s CARIS shed light on some of the good practices for improving data collection and analysis on services. These related to the use of firm-level surveys, availability and quality of human capital, diversification of data sources, and external support among others. The need for functioning institutional and stakeholder interaction mechanisms to support decision-making was another critical factor identified in recent studies by CUTS International.
“Diagnosing the potential for trade in services is a necessity in least developed countries, especially looking at possible niche sectors which offer opportunities for diversification” said the Executive Director of the Enhanced Integrated Framework, Ratnakar Adhikari speaking at an outreach event. Organised this Friday, October 2 during the WTO Public Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, the event presented emerging findings from the project “Support to Enhance Development of Trade in Services Negotiations”, underscoring the importance of services data collection and analysis and inclusive institutional mechanisms.
Through a series of case studies, toolkits and training workshops, this initiative supported by the UK Trade Advocacy Fund and jointly undertaken by International Lawyers and Economists Against Poverty (ILEAP), CUTS International Geneva and the Centre for the Analysis of Regional Integration at Sussex (CARIS), aims to assist Low- and Middle-Income Countries to participate more effectively in multilateral, regional and bilateral services trade negotiations.
Emerging findings presented at the event shed light on some of the good practices that countries may consider, e.g. in improving their data collection and analysis on services. “Some of the good practices relate to the use of firm-level surveys, availability and quality of human capital, diversification of data sources, and external support among others” reported Anirudh Shingal, Research Associate at CARIS. “We are currently preparing a toolkit on using services trade data for meaningful analysis, which will be used for capacity-building,” he added.
Another critical factor identified for effective participation in trade in services promotion and negotiations is the need for functioning institutional and stakeholder interaction mechanisms to support decision-making. Recent studies under the initiative have shown that effective involvement of all stakeholders at national level would lead to more realistic trade policy and better implementation. Civil society organizations are a key pillar of the institutional trade in services landscape today, and their inclusive participation can be an invaluable asset for the government when properly designed. In particular, the civil society and private sector can be key partners in informing decisions and building the necessary broad-based ownership over new policies and negotiated outcomes.
According to Julian Mukiibi, Senior Programme Officer at CUTS International, Geneva, “Many services like education and health have a social aspect that go beyond the commercial aspect. Involving the civil society in policy-making can help ensure that there is no compromise on the public interest”.
Services represent an increasing share of trade, and developing countries are willing to be part of the game. “Between 2009 and 2012, Africa managed to double its trade in services growth, with some countries like Burundi achieving double digit growth,” noted the Executive Director of the EIF, Ratnakar Adhikari. Yet, their participation in trade negotiations where services have become an increasingly visible feature has remained a challenge. According to Abid Khan of the Mission of Bangladesh in Geneva, developing countries’ participation in such negotiations has been hampered by the difficulty to access and analyse trade in services data.
“Mode 4 is not captured in services data, which makes it hard to assess our competitiveness in this Mode and hence difficult for us to develop related negotiating positions,” he said.
Other organisations like UNCTAD have also been long-standing partners of developing countries in building their data analysis and diagnostic capacity for the promotion of trade in services. These diagnostic tools include the Global Services Forum; the Multi-year Expert Meeting on Trade, Services and Development; as well as demand-driven services policy reviews.
“We have undertaken over a hundred reviews so far, which not only mapped the situation but also helped start structural transformation and enhance negotiating capacities,” reported Mina Mashayekhi, Head of the Trade Negotiations and Commercial diplomacy Branch at UNCTAD.
In her remarks, the event chairperson Deanna Easton, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Australia to the WTO, noted that “Governments around the world are increasingly recognising the importance of trade in services, not just because transports, logistics and business services are essential components in goods trade, but also because services like telecommunications and banking underpin all economic activity.”