The European Union Friday voiced strong support for Uruguay’s formalized interest in joining the World Trade Organization’s TISA (Trade In Services Agreement) that have been underway in Geneva, Switzerland. The TISA initiative is designed to liberalize commerce in the international services sector, including ICT (Information, Communications, Technology). Uruguay in 2013 initially expressed interest in joining the initiative, submitting a formal application in November.
In addition to ICT, the TISA covers transportation, logistics, business and financial services. The goal is to develop a structural framework for trade in services across participants. Current participants in the talks include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taiwan, Colombia, Costa Rica, the EU, Hong Kong China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey, and the USA.
The formal application from Uruguay’s Foreign Minister Luis Almagro comes as part of a larger effort by Uruguay to grow its business services sector, including information technology, and serve as a stable destination for shared services and BPO. “Uruguay shares the objectives of the TISA negotiations and will respect the results of the negotiation achieved by other participants if it joins,” said Almagro.
The negotiations are particularly important for the EU, as the services sector makes up 75% of the EU GDP and employment. TISA related activity potentially affects up to 70% of European foreign direct investment (FDI).
“The European Union welcomes Uruguay’s interest in the TISA negotiations and strongly supports its participation from now onwards” said theEU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht in a written statement.
The TISA talks come out of a collapse of the Doha Round of trade negotiations in 2011. Those talks were declared at an impasse in 2011 during the WTO’s 8th Ministerial Conference (MC8). “It turns out that MC8 was a very significant moment for the WTO,
because what we decided there was that we needed to think of things in a new and open-minded way, and to consider new approaches,” said US WTO Ambassador Michael Punke. “The Doha services talks were not sufficiently ambitious.”
The TISA talks, unlike the Doha negotiations, are standalone and designed specifically to address services-sector trade, rather than the entire gamut of trade issues tackled by the original Doha talks.
“We’re well on track to meet our objectives for the TISA. We have really fast-tracked those, that’s why we’ve made so much progress in the past twelve months,” said Ambassador to the WTO Hamish McCormick of Australia.