Despite the postponement of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12) and, consequently, the meeting of Foreign Affairs Council comprising trade ministers, which would have been chaired by Minister Zdravko Počivalšek, work continues in various areas. As a result, the declaration noting the conclusion of negotiations on domestic legislation has been adopted today. This is the first WTO agreement on trade in services in more than 20 years.
In their desire to move forward, the countries participating in the World Trade Organization plurilateral negotiations on domestic legislation have decided to confirm the conclusion of the negotiations on domestic legislation by adopting the declaration, thus allowing the start of the procedures needed to put the agreement into effect.
The declaration has been adopted today by the ambassadors of the participating countries in Geneva. The declaration notes the conclusion of the negotiations and also contains the text of the agreement and a list of commitments submitted by the participating countries. A related event hosted by the EU, Australia and Costa Rica was also attended by the WTO Director-General, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who welcomed the plurilateral agreement and highlighted its benefits also for non-participating countries and expressed her hope for the accession of new members.
Speaking at the adoption of the declaration, Minister Počivalšek said "I warmly welcome the agreement reached in domestic services legislation. Despite the postponement of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference, the participating countries have demonstrated their willingness to reach an agreement, thus allowing the start of procedures for its entry into force. The agreed rules will significantly facilitate business and reduce costs for companies. This also achieves one of the important objectives of the six-month programme of the Slovenian Presidency of the Council of the EU, which has identified the WTO as a key priority in trade policy".
The term domestic legislation is used within the WTO to refer to the requirements and procedures for licences and qualifications required for the provision of services. The agreed rules, which are largely based on the rules of good governance of international organisations such as the OECD and the World Bank, will ensure transparency, legal certainty, predictability and regulatory quality. This will be achieved through commitments to publish and make information available, to respond to enquiries by applicants, to provide written information on the decisions taken in application procedures and to provide information on the grounds for refusal, through commitments to formulate measures on objective and transparent criteria, through commitments on the independence of licensing procedures, on setting reasonable and transparent fees, with the possibility of accepting applications electronically, and other.
Minister Počivalšek also pointed out: "Clear rules on transparency and permits are expected to be of particular benefit to micro, small and medium-sized enterprises, which do not have large resources and experience to deal with complex processes."
The agreement, which is open to all WTO members, currently includes 67 countries representing almost 90% of global services trade. Based on the most-favoured nation treatment principle, all WTO Member States will benefit from the additional commitments of the participating countries.