ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Plurilateral Service Agreement Game at the WTO

Moves are afoot at the World Trade Organisation for a select group of countries to get around the Doha Round impasse and negotiate a plurilateral International Services Agreement, which would then be open to other WTO countries to join. Such a trade pact would be clearly illegal under the WTO rules; the talk is more like a bluff game to pressure all WTO members to open up their services to foreign suppliers.

With the World Trade Organi­sation’s (WTO) Doha Round of negotiations at a complete impasse, those who launched it 12 years ago appear to be trying to find a way of burying the “corpse”, and looking for other ways to achieve their neo-­mercantilist agendas.

The air has been thick in recent weeks with news of the talks and tentative agreements among the “Really Good Friends of Services” (RGFS) for an International Services Agreement (ISA) with a new architecture of sorts and a heavy dose of liberalisation. Some of the ­contours of the intended ISA, and the progress in negotiations, have been spelt out in testimony in September before the United States Congress by Michael Punkhe, the deputy US Trade Represen­tative (USTR) and US ambassador to the WTO, as also in more recent statements by the Australian minister for trade and some other participants about “tentative accords”.

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