EU favors substance over punctuality in TiSA talks

BRUSSELS, April 12 (Xinhua) — Twenty-three members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are meeting for the 17th round of the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) negotiations in Geneva this week, in line with their revised work plan.

Some members hope the talks to open up markets and improve rules will conclude by the end of 2016, but the European Union (EU) has said it prefers the quality of the agreement over a rapid conclusion.

Having wrapped up major parts of the chapters on domestic regulation and transparency in prior rounds, the negotiators will aim this time to make further progress on some of the key thematic annexes of the future agreement and get closer to a stable text, the European Commission, representing the EU in the talks, said on its official website.

The new round of talks will cover all annexes on digital issues — telecoms, e-commerce, and localization, financial services, and visa protocol relating to the access of highly skilled professionals to services markets in other TiSA negotiating countries.

Moreover, the agenda also envisages bilateral negotiations on market access in preparation for an exchange of revised offers in May, with the second revisions set for October. Transport services will also be discussed in this round.

According to a European Commission document, Australia — the chair of the 17th round — is positive the 2016 deadline to close TiSA is achievable. But the same document reveals the European Commission is “not convinced of the utility of a specific deadline,” local media EU Trade Insight said.

The TiSA talks currently include WTO members such as the United States, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Australia and the EU, which altogether represent nearly 70 percent of the international services market.

It aims at the liberalization of international trade in a variety of areas, such as banking, telecom and health care.

China, as the EU’s second largest trading partner, has not yet been included in the TiSA negotiations, despite having officially submitted a request in September 2013.

The European Parliament has shown strong support for China to join the ongoing TiSA negotiations in a series of recommendations adopted by an assembly during a plenary session in February 2016.

As of February, 16 negotiation rounds have taken place. There is no formally set deadline for ending the negotiations. This round of talks takes place from April 10 to 15.

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