Making Sense of the GATS: ITC Seminars Prepare LDC Missions for greater negotiating focus on Services

2 April 2015
ITC News

The second and third LDC Services seminars focused on in depth technical discussions regarding GATS rules and negotiated GATS commitments and the manner in which they might be expected to impact on trade and investment across a range of services sectors of special interest to the least developed countries (LDCs).

These two seminars completed the core technical component of the series—in which experts from the WTO Secretariat played a central role in collaboration with ITC to help LDC missions identify key commercial interests through the lens of the GATS negotiating agenda. ITC acknowledges the strong contribution of WTO experts, who provided thought-provoking insights into the negotiations on financial services, business and professional services, ICT and business process outsourcing, tourism, transport & logistics; construction; recreation, entertainment and cultural and creative services. The seminar also explored aspects of GATS rules issues on domestic regulation, subsidies, government procurement and emergency safeguards.

The seminars were designed so that LDC delegates could make sense of the GATS rules and related issues through their own experiences within the public and private sectors. Chabala Lumbwe, CEO of Madison General Insurance, shared his perspective on trade in financial services and its impact on LDC growth, particularly in the context of domestic regulation and the insurance industry in Zambia; while Sandra Uwera, Coordinator of the COMESA Business Council (CBC), explained the need for public/private dialogue when confronting the challenges in the tourism sector, at both domestic and regional level. Through this combination of technical expertise and business experience, the GATS rules were brought to life in a meaningful and accessible way.

The seminars not only facilitated technical training, but also provided important networking opportunities for delegates to meet key experts from WTO and ITC. As a representative from the WTO Secretariat explained, the GATS is a flexible instrument, and such opportunities for consultation matter.

Importantly, the seminars marked the launch of a new ITC trade-intelligence initiative, the Services Snapshot series. As Mr. Anders Aeroe, Director of ITC’s Market Development Division, explained, the Services Snapshots will provide a baseline of statistical information on the local services economy for each LDC, thereby helping to redress the widespread absence of user-friendly statistical information on trade in services, particularly for the LDCs. The Snapshots will be of use to services SME exporters, to trade support providers, and representatives from the public and private sectors seeking a better understanding of the importance of the services sector to local economies.

For more information on the seminar series, please click here.