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Services in Doha: what's on the table?

posted on 2023-06-08, 11:47 authored by Ingo BorchertIngo Borchert, Batshur Gootiiz, Aaditya Mattoo
The potential gains from reforming trade in communications, finance, transport and business services are large, probably larger than those from comparable liberalisation of goods trade. Even exploiting the opportunities arising from goods trade liberalisation will require better services: sub-Saharan African exporters today pay transport costs many times greater than the tariffs that they face in industrial country markets. Moreover, without progress in services there may simply not be enough on the table to allow progress in other market-access areas: services are the strongest export interest of WTO members such as the EU, India and the USA that are the focal point of efforts to liberalise agricultural trade. So services matter. But what is Doha doing about it? It has been hard to judge, because of the opaqueness of services policies and the opaqueness of the request–offer negotiating process. This chapter tries to assess what is on the table. It begins by summarising what we believe to be the first survey of applied trade policies in the major services sectors of 102 industrial and developing countries. These policies are then compared with those countries’ Uruguay Round commitments in services and the best offers that they have made in the current Doha negotiations. In a nutshell, at this stage Doha promises somewhat greater security of access to services markets but not one iota of liberalisation. Ironically, two of the most protected sectors, transport and professional services (involving the international mobility of people), are either not being negotiated at all or are not being negotiated with any degree of seriousness. Uruguay Round commitments are, on average, 2.3 times more restrictive than current policies. The best offers submitted so far as part of the Doha negotiations improve on Uruguay Round commitments by about 10% but are still, on average, twice as restrictive as actual policies. At present, Doha offers not greater access to markets but a weak assurance that access will not get worse.


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CEPR and World Bank

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Unfinished Business? The WTO's Doha Agenda

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  • Economics Publications

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Aaditya Mattoo, Will Martin

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