Request-offer process to continue in WTO

New Delhi, Nov 13 | Updated: Nov 14 2005, 05:30am hrs
The request-offer process will remain the main method for services negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). This is as per the first draft of the ministerial text on services formulated during the Hong Kong ministerial meet and which was circulated by the council for trade in services recently.

The EU proposal of benchmarking the services offered by setting minimum standards (in quantitative and qualitative terms) has also found a place in the draft in the form of numerical targets and indications and is mentioned as a brief point.

A large number of developing countries, including India, have rejected the concept of quantitative benchmarks for opening up of services sector as it would not be possible for many developing countries to fulfill such obligations.

Speaking to FE, commerce ministry officials said that till a more acceptable process of conducting negotiations was on the table, it was better to continue with the request-offer process.The problem with this process is that it is slow and a large number of countries were yet to submit their revised offers.

According to the EU proposal, it would make offers in 115 of the total 148 sectors being negotiated while developing countries could make offers in 80. It has also said that in the financial services, a minimum liberalisation of 51% should take place.

As the draft has laid down objectives in various modes, commerce ministry officials said that India could tackle such demands by making counter-demands in Mode 4 related to the movement of natural persons.

According to Mode 1, related to cross-border movement of services including business process outsourcing, the draft suggests that commitments to existing levels of openness on a non-discriminator basis across sectors of interest to members should be made and existing requirements presence should be removed.