Australia is jointly leading, with the United States and the European Union, negotiations on a services-only free trade agreement known as the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).
Formal TiSA negotiations began in early 2013, following 12 months of exploratory discussions that Australia and the United States led in Geneva between a subset of World Trade Organization (WTO) Members interested in new approaches to progressing services trade liberalisation that would support and feed back into multilateral trade negotiations.
Australia has a strong interest in progressing services trade reform, both in terms of improved services market access commitments and as a way to generate momentum in multilateral negotiations more broadly. The services sector accounts for around 70 per cent of Australia’s economic activity, employs four out of five Australians and plays an important role in international trade, accounting for around 17 per cent of Australia’s total exports.
Since discussions began, participation in the TiSA has expanded from 16 to 23 WTO Members, including the European Union which represents its 28 Member States.
The 23 TiSA parties currently comprise: Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, European Union (representing its 28 Member States), Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey and the United States.
TiSA parties collectively account for around 70 per cent of global trade in services. The group represents a range of developed and developing economies and will expand to include other WTO Members as the negotiations progress. China and Uruguay recently indicated interest in joining the negotiations.
TiSA parties have agreed on a framework for the negotiation of the high-quality and comprehensive services-only trade agreement. The objective is to negotiate an agreement which is compatible with the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services, will attract broad participation, and will support and feed back into multilateral trade negotiations. The TiSA will set a new standard in services trade commitments, capturing the progress that has been made through unilateral liberalisation and in free trade agreements outside the multilateral system. Many of the current parties already have relatively open services markets. Locking in existing market access would provide certainty for Australian services suppliers. As participation continues to expand, the TiSA could offer significant additional benefits, particularly for Australian business if countries from our region join and liberalise to meet level of ambition.
The TiSA negotiations will cover all services sectors. In addition to improved market access commitments, the negotiations also provide an opportunity to develop new disciplines (or trade rules) in areas where there has been significant developments since the WTO Uruguay Round negotiations. There negotiations will cover financial services; ICT services (including telecommunications and e-commerce); professional services; maritime transport services; air transport services, competitive delivery services; energy services; temporary entry of business persons; government procurement; and new rules on domestic regulation to ensure regulatory settings do not operate as a barrier to trade in services. These negotiations are still in the early stages but will likely reflect developments in other free trade agreements.
The European Union will chair the next round of Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations in Geneva in February 2014.
Fourth Round (4–8 November 2013)
The United States chaired the November round. Negotiations focused on advancing new and enhanced disciplines (trade rules) on ICT services, financial services, professional services, temporary entry of business persons, maritime transport services and domestic regulation. New proposals were tabled on air transport services, competitive delivery services, energy services and subsidies. The European Union was the third party to table an initial market access offer. Other parties confirmed offers will be tabled by the 30 November deadline. Further progress was made on the core text of the agreement with the provisions on scheduling commitments now largely finalised. TiSA parties held a transparency session to update China and Uruguay on the progress in the negotiations, following expressions of interest in joining the negotiations.
Third Round (16–20 September 2013)
Australia chaired the September round. In a sign of growing momentum in the negotiations, more than 120 negotiators and sector-specific government experts attended. Significant progress was made on the core text of the agreement, which allowed parties to agree to a window for tabling initial market access offers of 4 30 November. Early offers tabled by the United States and Japan enabled the commencement of market access negotiations. Discussions also progressed on new and enhanced disciplines.
Second Round (24–28 June 2013)
The European Union chaired the June round. Liechtenstein joined the negotiations bringing the number of parties to 23, including the European Union representing its 28 Member States following Croatia’s accession. Ongoing discussions around the inclusion of provisions from the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services in the core text of the TiSA meant parties were not able to confirm a window for tabling offers. Initial discussions were held on Australia’s proposal for an Annex on Professional Services. New proposals were tabled on financial services and domestic regulation. Preliminary discussions on e-commerce and maritime transport services were complemented by presentations from industry in the margins of the meeting on developments in the ICT and maritime sectors.
First Round (27 April – 3 May 2013)
The United States chaired the first formal negotiating round in April/May. Parties produced a first draft core negotiating text and discussed a July window for tabling initial market access offers if sufficient progress could be made on the core text at the June round. A full day was dedicated to discussions on temporary entry of business persons. Initial discussions were also held on financial services.
Since February 2012, Australia has been jointly leading discussions in Geneva among a subset of WTO Members interested in progressing services trade liberalisation. In July 2012, parties released a joint statement outlining steps towards the negotiation of a comprehensive services-only trade agreement. In December 2012, parties agreed a Framework for Negotiations on a Trade in Services Agreement. The Framework detailed parties objectives and the proposed structure for the agreement and was the basis for seeking agreement to commence negotiations in 2013.
As part of the Australian Government’s ongoing public consultation process, consultations were held in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne in 2013. Further public consultations are planned for early 2014, including to inform the development of Australia’s market access requests once initial offers are tabled.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade welcomes submissions from interested stakeholders to assist in assessing the costs and benefits of the TISA and formulating Australia’s priorities and objectives in negotiations.
All submissions will be made publicly available on the DFAT website unless the author specifies otherwise. Submissions may be lodged electronically to: email@example.com
By post to:
Services Trade and Negotiations Section
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
R.G. Casey Building
John McEwen Crescent
Barton ACT 0221
- ANZ [PDF 335 KB]
- Australian Council of Trade Unions [PDF 499 KB]
- Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network Ltd [PDF 476 KB]
- Australian Institute of Architects [PDF 244 KB]
- Australian Services Roundtable [PDF 80 KB]
- Australian Services Roundtable (additional submission) [PDF 245 KB]
- Consult Australia [PDF 508 KB]
- IBM Australia Ltd [PDF 50 KB]
- Music Council of Australia [PDF 348 KB]