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LDCS to Offer Services to Developed WorldTuesday, February 24, 2015 > 11:08:57
Least Developed Countries (LDCs) including Uganda, are to be given preferential treatment in terms of supplying services to the wealthier nations.
This was agreed on during a High Level Meeting (HLM) of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Services Council on February 5, 2015, held in Geneva Switzerland. The meeting convened to discuss measures which would support the growth of services trade in least developed countries (LDCs) by providing their services exports with preferential treatment.
Some of the countries that made offers to LDCs to export services include; the European Union, Australia, Norway, India, Mexico, Brazil, China, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Turkey and many more.
The services and service suppliers who are to benefit from the services waiver include among others; recognized and certified service providers and professionals such as doctors, teachers, nurses, certified hairdressers, accountants and many others.
At the same meeting, many WTO members mentioned various technical assistance initiatives to improve LDC services export capacity. The initiatives include training programmes for LDC services suppliers and support to upgrade infrastructure.
Uganda is the current Coordinator for the LDC Group at the WTO and was represented by Amelia Kyambadde, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives, Ambassador Christopher Aparr, Permanent Representative to UN in Geneva, and Uganda's Mission and Ministry officials. Addressing the meeting, Kyambadde said the LDC Group has moved a step in implementing the operationalization of the services waiver; one of the milestones set out at the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013.
The Minister reminded members that during Bali Ministerial Conference WTO Trade ministers recognized the need to grant preferential treatment to LDCs services and services suppliers in form of a waiver and therefore decided to operationalize the decision. The Services waiver to LDCs was granted in 2011 during the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference with duration of 25 years.
However three years elapsed without any offer from the WTO members from the developed and developing countries.
When the Services Waiver was operationalized, the LDC Group under the chairmanship of Uganda, submitted their collective request as mandated by the Bali Ministerial Conference in 21stJuly 2014.
Under the stewardship of Kyambadde as the LDC Group coordinator, the LDC Group engaged in bi-laterals with over 30 members in order to better explain their request and expectations.
Kyambadde mentioned a few aspects covered in the LDC collective request that range from requests for market access and quotas; preferences in administrative areas such as reducing procedures, reducing fees and paper work for visas, work permits, resident permits, and alike where LDCs services suppliers have an offer or obtained a contract in a foreign country. She emphasised the fact that onerous application fees for visas, licenses and resident permits for many LDCs are tantamount to one month's salary for their families, and also severe loss if the visa is not granted and fees are not returned.
Hon. Kyambadde reminded the members that the outcomes of the high level meeting would be a decisive test on the credibility of the WTO and therefore, a successful outcome would greatly impact the lives and livelihoods of the people in LDCs. She said she was optimistic that while WTO is celebrating 20th anniversary, the LDC Group would like to celebrate with concrete commitments from the members in the form of market access and beyond market access preferences that would respond to the collective request. It was on the basis of the collective request that the WTO Group of LDCs submitted, that the WTO members made their offers and indicated the services sectors and modes of supply of interest to them. The offers were made during the High Level Meeting of the WTO services Council on 5th February 2015, which was an important step in implementing a key Bali decision in support of LDCs, which aims to enhance their participation in world services trade.
Over 25 members indicated services sectors and modes of supply from LDCs from which they would give preferential treatment. Some preferences would include;
- expanding access for the temporally movement of business people from LDCs for a range of services professions and occupations
- waiving fees for business and employment visas for LDC persons
- not imposing economic needs and labour market tests for LDC members
- extending the duration of stay of LDC professionals in the markets of preference granting members.
Some of the above preferences will be implemented once the Members have completed their domestic processes that include consultations and have notified the WTO. Members agreed that their delegations will endeavour to notify the preferences at their earliest possible, and no later than 31 July 2015.
In her closing remarks, Kyambadde said if the offers made by the WTO members are implemented, Uganda and other LDC members will be able to utilize this expanded opportunity to export more services to the developed and developing WTO member countries.