Friday, January 25, 2013

Potential New International Services Agreement – USTR Seeking Comments on Negotiations

Story First appeared on Washington Trade News at Stewart and
On January 15, 2013, USTR Ron Kirk notified Congress of the Administration’s intent to enter into negotiations for a new trade agreement on international trade in services, and, on January 24, 2013, USTR issued a Federal Register notice requesting public comments on the new services negotiations.  Comments must submitted by February 26, 2013. Stewart and Stewart is following these negotiations carefully regarding their possible impact upon International Trade Free Trade Agreements.

In a new Trade Flow, Terence P. Stewart, managing partner of Stewart and Stewart, explains that the United States currently benefits from trade in services ($178.5 billion surplus in 2011) and, if barriers are reduced (it is estimated that lost services exports are equal to $800 billion), the U.S. has the potential of benefiting even more in increased exports and jobs.    For Stewart and Stewart, this potential is key, and their Customs attorneys are closely monitoring the developments.  However, the WTO's (World Trade Organization) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), in effect since 1995, has yet to fulfill one of the fundamental objectives of the GATS—progressive liberalization—due to delays occasioned by the uncompleted Doha round and other reasons.  Thus, countries interested in expanding services access have increasingly focused on the possibility of bilateral or plurilateral negotiations as an alternative to the stalled Doha talks.  The new services negotiations announced by USTR are a result of that process.  The negotiations will initially involve the United States and twenty of its trading partners (mostly developed countries), with the possibility that other countries may join the discussions later.  Import and Export trading is key to the balance of the world economy, therefore the professional attorneys at Stewart and Stewart are closely monitoring these negotiations.

The new services negotiations are likely to be broad in scope and coverage, and all U.S. stakeholders should consider submitting comments so that USTR may be fully informed of the potential benefits and challenges that liberalized trade in services presents to U.S. service providers.

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