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Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA)

Quick Facts on TiSA

  • an agreement to liberalise trade in services
  • involves 23 WTO members, including the EU, who together account for 70% of world trade in services
  • open to other WTO members and compatible with WTO / GATS
  • could be made part of the WTO once enough WTO members join
  • ten rounds of talks in Geneva by the end of 2014
  • no set deadline to end the talks
  • EU position papers on Tisa

The Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) is a trade agreement currently being negotiated by 23 members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), including the EU. Together, these countries account for 70% of world trade in services. 

TiSA is based on the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which involves all WTO members.  The key provisions of the GATS – scope, definitions, market access, national treatment and exemptions – are also found in TiSA .

The talks are based on proposals made by the participants.  TiSA aims at opening up markets and improving rules in areas such as licensing, financial services, telecoms, e-commerce, maritime transport, and workers moving abroad temporarily to provide services.

TiSA in a nutshell

Facilitating trade in services...

Services are an increasingly important in the global economy and a central part of the economy of every EU country.  The EU is the world's largest exporter of services with tens of millions of jobs throughout Europe in the services sector.  Opening up markets for services will mean more growth and jobs. 

By opening up trade in services, we also hope the TiSA talks will help kick start the stalled multilateral negotiations – the Doha Development Round or DDA – being carried out under the umbrella of the World Trade Organisation.

...Between a group of like-minded countries...

23 WTO members are taking part in the TiSA talks:
Australia, Canada, Chile, Chinese Taipei, Colombia, Costa Rica, the EU, Hong Kong China, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Korea, Liechtenstein, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Switzerland, Turkey and the United States. Of these, the EU has no free trade agreements on services with Chinese Taipei, Israel, Pakistan or Turkey.

... and designed to encourage others to join

TiSA is open to all WTO members who want to open up trade in services.  China and Uruguay have asked to join the talks.  The EU supports their applications because it wants as many countries as possible to join the agreement.

TiSA is based on the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), which involves all WTO members.  This means that if enough WTO members join, TiSA could be turned into a broader WTO agreement and its benefits extended beyond the current participants.

How is it organised?

The meetings take place in Geneva. They are chaired alternately by the EU, Australia and the US. The talks and decision-making are consensus-based.

Transparency

Like any other trade negotiations, the TiSA talks are not carried out in public and the documents are available to participants only.

The EU, however, has been keen to be as transparent as possible.

The European Commission negotiates on behalf of the EU. Its team of negotiators provide regular briefings to the Council – where representatives of the governments of the EU's Member States sit – and to the European Parliament. The Commission also organises frequent meetings with business and civil society.

TiSA participants keep other WTO members regularly informed of the state of play of negotiations.

State of play

The talks started formally in March 2013, with participants agreeing on a basic text in September 2013.  By the end of 2013, most participants had indicated which of their services markets they were prepared to open and by how much.

By the end of 2014, ten negotiation rounds will have taken place.  Meetings are scheduled for September/October and December.  The talks are progressing well.  There is no set deadline set for ending the negotiations.