Dozens of World Trade Organization member countries announced Dec. 2 a uniform set of new regulatory disciplines on global services trade that could cut costs for financial, business, communications, transportation, and other services providers by $150 billion a year.

According to the WTO, services trade now accounts for about half of global trade but the costs of trading services are about twice as high as trade costs for goods. The new disciplines seek to lower these costs by ensuring that existing market access and national treatment commitments are not nullified by opaque and complex measures relating to licensing requirements and procedures, qualification requirements and procedures, and technical standards affecting trade in services. The disciplines will apply to sectors where participants have undertaken specific commitments under the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services, though they could be expanded to additional sectors in the future.

Nearly 70 WTO members representing 90 percent of global services trade have submitted schedules spelling out how they will incorporate the new disciplines into their existing GATS commitments, which should be completed by the end of 2022. The disciplines will be applied on a most-favored nation basis, meaning services suppliers from all WTO members will benefit from them, and members not already participating can do so at any time.

More information on the new disciplines can be found here.

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