Australia is jointly leading, with the United States and the European Union, negotiations on a services-only free trade agreement known as the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).
Formal TiSA negotiations began in early 2013, following 12 months of exploratory discussions that Australia led, with the United States and European Union, in Geneva between a subset of World Trade Organization (WTO) Members interested in progressing services trade liberalisation in a way that would support and feed back into multilateral trade negotiations.
Australia has a strong interest in progressing services trade reform, both in terms of improved services market access commitments and as a way to generate momentum in multilateral negotiations more broadly. The services sector accounts for around 70 per cent of Australia’s economic activity, employs four out of five Australians and plays an important role in international trade, accounting for around 17 per cent of Australia’s total exports.
TiSA: Frequently asked questions.
Since discussions began, participation in the TiSA has expanded from 16 to 23 parties, with the European Union representing its 28 Member States, for a total of 50 WTO Members.
The 23 TiSA parties currently comprise: Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union (representing its 28 Member States), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Republic of Korea, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States.
TiSA parties collectively account for around 70 per cent of global trade in services. The group represents a range of developed and developing economies and will expand to include other WTO Members as the negotiations progress. China and Uruguay have indicated interest in joining the negotiations.
TiSA parties have agreed on a framework for the negotiation of the high-quality and comprehensive services-only trade agreement. The objective is to negotiate an agreement which is compatible with the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services, will attract broad participation, and will support and feed back into multilateral trade negotiations. The TiSA will set a new standard in services trade commitments, capturing the progress that has been made through unilateral liberalisation and in free trade agreements outside the multilateral system. Many of the current parties already have relatively open services markets. Locking in existing market access would provide certainty for Australian services suppliers. As participation continues to expand, the TiSA could offer significant additional benefits, particularly for Australian business if countries from our region join and liberalise to meet level of ambition.
The TiSA negotiations will cover all services sectors. In addition to improved market access commitments, the negotiations also provide an opportunity to develop new disciplines (or trade rules) in areas where there has been significant developments since the WTO Uruguay Round negotiations. There negotiations will cover financial services; ICT services (including telecommunications and e-commerce); professional services; maritime transport services; air transport services; competitive delivery services; energy services; temporary entry of business persons; government procurement; and new rules on domestic regulation to ensure regulatory settings do not operate as a barrier to trade in services. These negotiations are still in the early stages but will likely reflect developments in other free trade agreements.
The United States will chair the tenth round of TiSA negotiations in Geneva from 9-13 February 2015.
Ninth Round (1-5 December 2014)
Australia chaired the December Round. It was attended by more than 200 negotiators and sector-specific government experts. Good progress was made in advancing the enhanced disciplines (trade rules) for e-commerce and telecommunications, domestic regulation and transparency, financial services, temporary entry of business persons, professional services, maritime and air transport services and delivery services. There was also further discussion of proposals on government procurement, environmental and energy services, and the facilitation of patient mobility. Parties reported on progress in bilateral market access discussions held since the September Round and committed to advance these further in 2015.
Eighth Round (21-25 September 2014)
The EU chaired the September Round. Negotiators made positive progress on further developing new and enhanced disciplines (trade rules) for temporary entry of business persons, financial services, maritime and air transport services, domestic regulation and transparency, e-commerce and telecommunications and professional services. There was also a discussion of new proposals, including on environmental services, government procurement and direct selling services. Following on from the commitment made by Parties’ at the June Round to enhance the focus on market access negotiations, negotiators discussed raising the level of ambition in various sectors. Parties agreed to progress market access discussions intersessionally.
Seventh Round (23-27 June 2014)
The United States chaired the June round. The negotiations focused on advancing the new and enhanced disciplines (trade rules) for e-commerce and telecommunications, financial services, professional services, domestic regulation and transparency, air and maritime transport and temporary entry of business persons. Solid progress was made in all of these areas. Negotiators also held further discussions on the competitive delivery services and road transport proposals. Market access discussions continued with TiSA Parties agreeing to make market access negotiations an increasing focus of the negotiations going forward. To support Australia's objective of increasing opportunities for professional service suppliers, we facilitated a presentation by the International Bar Association on trade in legal services in the margins of the round. The presentation was well-received by TiSA parties.
Sixth Round (28 April - 2 May 2014)
Australia chaired the April/May round. More than 140 negotiators and sector-specific government experts attended. Good progress was made advancing discussions in all areas of the negotiations, including on new and enhanced disciplines (trade rules) for financial services, domestic regulation and transparency, e-commerce and telecommunications, and maritime transport. TiSA parties also agreed to move to a negotiating text for air transport. Market access negotiations also continued. The Global Services Coalition organised a substantial industry presence in the margins of the negotiations, and Australia's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO participated in a public information session hosted by the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development.
Fifth Round (17-24 February 2014)
The EU chaired the February round. The round marked the commencement of market access negotiations with three days of dedicated discussions. 21 of the 23 TiSA parties tabled their initial market access offers, sending a clear signal as to the strong momentum in the negotiations. TiSA parties also continued discussions on new and advanced disciplines (trade rules) for ICT services, financial services, domestic regulation and transparency, maritime transport, professional services and temporary entry of business persons. They agreed to move from proposals to negotiating texts for all of these disciplines.
Fourth Round (4–8 November 2013)
The United States chaired the November round. Negotiations focused on advancing new and enhanced disciplines (trade rules) on ICT services, financial services, professional services, temporary entry of business persons, maritime transport services and domestic regulation. New proposals were tabled on air transport services, competitive delivery services, energy services and subsidies. The European Union was the third party to table an initial market access offer. Other parties confirmed offers will be tabled by the 30 November deadline. Further progress was made on the core text of the agreement with the provisions on scheduling commitments now largely finalised.
Third Round (16–20 September 2013)
Australia chaired the September round. In a sign of growing momentum in the negotiations, more than 120 negotiators and sector-specific government experts attended. Significant progress was made on the core text of the agreement, which allowed parties to agree to a window for tabling initial market access offers of 4 30 November. Early offers tabled by the United States and Japan enabled the commencement of market access negotiations. Discussions also progressed on new and enhanced disciplines.
Second Round (24–28 June 2013)
The European Union chaired the June round. Liechtenstein joined the negotiations bringing the number of parties to 23, including the European Union representing its 28 Member States following Croatia’s accession. Ongoing discussions around the inclusion of provisions from the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services in the core text of the TiSA meant parties were not able to confirm a window for tabling offers. Initial discussions were held on Australia’s proposal for an Annex on Professional Services. New proposals were tabled on financial services and domestic regulation. Preliminary discussions on e-commerce and maritime transport services were complemented by presentations from industry in the margins of the meeting on developments in the ICT and maritime sectors.
First Round (27 April – 3 May 2013)
The United States chaired the first formal negotiating round in April/May. Parties produced a first draft core negotiating text and discussed a July window for tabling initial market access offers if sufficient progress could be made on the core text at the June round. A full day was dedicated to discussions on temporary entry of business persons. Initial discussions were also held on financial services.
Since February 2012, Australia has been jointly leading discussions in Geneva among a subset of WTO Members interested in progressing services trade liberalisation. In July 2012, parties released a joint statement outlining steps towards the negotiation of a comprehensive services-only trade agreement. In December 2012, parties agreed a Framework for Negotiations on a Trade in Services Agreement. The Framework detailed parties objectives and the proposed structure for the agreement and was the basis for seeking agreement to commence negotiations in 2013.
As part of the Australian Government’s ongoing public consultation process, consultations were held in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide in March and May 2014 and Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne in June and July 2013.
ICTSD: TiSA Public Information Session and Discussion
The International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) hosted a public information session on the TiSA in Geneva on 30 April 2014.
The session featured presentations by Australian Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Hamish McCormick, United States Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the WTO, Michael Punke, and EU Chief TiSA Negotiator, Ignacio Iruarrizaga Diez.
The session was open to all interested stakeholders.
A video of the event can be viewed on the ICTSD website.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade welcomes submissions from interested stakeholders to assist in assessing the costs and benefits of the TISA and formulating Australia’s priorities and objectives in negotiations.
All submissions will be made publicly available on the DFAT website unless the author specifies otherwise. Submissions may be lodged electronically to: firstname.lastname@example.org
By post to:
Services Trade and Negotiations Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R.G. Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221