The importance of the services sector in the EU’s economy is growing. Businesses across the world are increasingly interdependent, in so-called “global value chains”. But regulatory divergence between countries can entail additional costs for service providers themselves, those consuming services in their production activities as well as for final consumers. As the largest exporter of services in the world the EU has a strong interest in the liberalisation of services.
In the light of stagnation in the Doha Round of trade talks, a separate international agreement on trade in services is seen as a way to increase efficiencies in production carried out around the globe. Some 20 countries, led by the United States, the EU and Japan, have recently begun negotiating such an agreement on a plurilateral basis, bringing together some but not all WTO members.
Some emerging market powers such as India and Brazil have expressed concerns that the conclusion of a plurilateral services agreement might kill off the Doha Round negotiations and thus prevent deals in other fields that may have been possible under Doha. At the same time, businesses have been calling for quick and ambitious negotiations.