The envisaged Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is to create better access to the services markets and provide fresh momentum for the Doha round, which has been stalled. The EU and the German Government hold the view that the new rules designed to facilitate the trade in services should, at a later stage, be embraced at multilateral level.
Negotiations on individual service industries
The negotiations revolve around two underlying questions: what are the principles of trade policy that the parties to the agreement want to commit to? Which are the services industries where these principles should apply and which ones should be exempted?
With regard to the first question, the parties have agreed to let themselves be guided by the phrasing of the multilateral General Agreement of Trade in Services (GATS), which was approved by the WTO back in 1995. This means that parties will have to commit to granting market access, e. g. by renouncing import quotas, and to treating foreign companies and investors the same as domestic ones (national treatment).
In answer to the second question, i. e. the scope of application, lists have been drawn up for each individual country wishing to participate in TiSA. There is a joint list for EU member states, but every EU member state is at liberty to impose individual rules of its own.
Exemption of public services of general interest and audio-visual services at EU level
As TiSA is not about encouraging the privatisation of public services, some areas that are particularly sensitive for the EU and the member states - such as public services of general interest and audio-visual services - have been excluded from the outset. Similarly, there will not be any additional commitments made in the cultural sector.
As far as the work on the substance of the agreement is concerned, the focus currently is on drafting the text of the agreement and drawing up the lists of obligations, as well as on discussing sector-specific papers for individual areas and service industries. These papers will deal with services in the IT and financial sectors, temporary services provided by natural persons outside their own country ("mode 4"), professional services, and with domestic regulation.
Dispute settlement and safeguarding data privacy standards
TiSA will not include any rules on investment protection that are linked to dispute settlement procedures. In other words, it will be impossible for private investors to bring any such claims. Just like under the WTO agreements, dispute settlement under TiSA will be strictly limited to cases brought by a signatory state against another signatory state over claims of failure to comply with obligations arising from TiSA.
TiSA is also to maintain European standards on data privacy. There are no plans for these standards to be lowered or undermined.