The United States and 20 other trade partners are preparing to launch negotiations for a new international services agreement to increase trade opportunities for professional, financial, transportation, distribution, and other services. The negotiations give companies that provide these services, as well as those that use them, an opportunity to challenge such trade barriers as non-transparent regulations, preferences for domestic firms, and equity limits in participating foreign markets.
Participants in the negotiations include Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, the European Union, Hong Kong, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland and Turkey, with more expected to join. The current participants account for approximately 70 percent of services trade volume.
The last major services negotiation concluded nearly 20 years ago. Since then, the international trading environment for services has changed significantly as a result of technological advances, changing business practices, and the rise of new competitors—which are often owned or controlled by foreign governments. These new negotiations are an opportunity to update the rules and provisions governing international services trade and to cover new services that did not exist two decades ago.
The United States intends to use the services negotiations to seek greater transparency and predictability from trading partners, to address new issues from emerging technologies and electronic delivery of services, and to allow US service providers to compete based on quality rather than nationality. Companies with an interest in international services should begin working closely with the United States government to ensure their objectives are included in the negotiations.