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As the global round of negotiations initially planned did not take place, sectoral negotiations were launched by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in January 2000 concerning agriculture (GATT), intellectual property (TRIPS) and services (GATS). These negotiations, which constitute the so-called "built-in agenda", were laid down in the agreements in this field. The negotiations on services - so-called "GATS 2000 negotiations" - cover all categories of services.

Although the "GATS 2000" negotiations on services were officially launched in January 2000, discussions on substantive issues have not yet really begun: the delegations from the WTO Member States are currently seeking to achieve agreement on a timetable as well as on the negotiating directives. Moreover, practical work is under way to prepare for the negotiations, particularly by revising the GATS disciplines. The negotiations have been launched in accordance with Article XIX of the Agreement, which states that the aim of such negotiations is to achieve a progressively higher level of liberalisation (in scope and in substance, i.e. a higher degree of liberalisation will be sought for each area concerned), with their overall objective being to improve market access.

- Between the beginning of December 2000 and the end of March 2001, the European Union and its Member States intend to submit their negotiating proposals to the WTO, indicating the level of liberalisation desired: the proposals will correspond to the individual services sectors. Some key trade partners have already indicated that they intend to do the same. The proposals will reflect the parties' offensive interests (seeking to widen access for their services to the markets of non-member countries). Nevertheless, they must also take account of the parties' defensive interests (particularly in those sectors where public policies which meet objectives of general interest require that measures be retained which run counter to the GATS disciplines).

- The substantive negotiations cannot begin until this first stage of exchanging negotiating proposals has been completed.

Once the interests at stake have been identified, the negotiations will need to be prepared in detail so that the Community can form its negotiating position. In order to prepare this negotiating position during the GATS 2000 negotiations, the Commission launched, in January 1999, a comprehensive consultation process with representatives from the European services sectors and the Member States. In February 1999, the Commission began specific consultations with representatives from the audiovisual sector in order to identify the interests of this sector in the trade negotiations (1999 consultation).

With a view to completing the results of this first phase of negotiations and extending the consultation process to other sectors which are particularly sensitive from the point of view of cultural diversity, the Commission is launching a specific consultation process for the following services:

  1. Cultural services which have not been the subject of consultations for GATS 2000

  2. The following audiovisual services (in order to complete the 1999 consultation process):

    1. music

    2. educational software (to a certain extent, see below) and recreational software.

As regards the negotiating mandate which the Council must grant the Commission, it should be noted that the Informal Trade Council in Oporto (March 2000) confirmed that the Conclusions of the General Affairs Council of 26 October 1999 - adopted prior to the WTO Ministerial Conference in Seattle - are still valid for, among other things, the negotiations on the built-in agenda. An entire paragraph of these conclusions deals with the problem of cultural diversity and points the way forward for all cultural services, including the music and multimedia sectors.

The development of these sectors, particularly with the progress of electronic commerce, and the general objective of liberalising services within the WTO are likely to raise certain questions as regards what must be achieved in order to pursue and develop public policies in these culturally crucial sectors, at both national and European levels.

In view of the special nature of each of these services sectors, three individual consultation documents have been drawn up. Each one describes, for a given sector, the current state of affairs with regard to GATS and outlines the main issues which are of relevance to the cultural specificity of these services sectors.

Furthermore, technological developments can also create new market outlets for European services and it is necessary to examine any obstacles encountered by providers of these services in non-member countries. A specific General questionnaire (word.doc) seeks to identify these obstacles precisely.

This questionnaire, like the previous one issued in February 1999, aims to provide the Commission with the necessary information to prepare negotiating positions.

Unless otherwise specified by respondents, responses could be publicly disclosed by the Commission!

Consultation documents:

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