HC Deb 08 July 2002 vol 388 cc673-4W
Ms Drown

To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry if she will make a statement on the European Union's negotiating demands for the General Agreement on Trade in Services, indicating which ones her Department(a) supports and (b) does not support. [64719]

Ms Hewitt

In line with the end-June benchmark date set in the WTO Doha ministerial declaration for the exchange of initial requests between WTO members for liberalisation under the current General Agreement on Trade in Services negotiations, the European Community's requests were finalised on 28 June following consultation between the Commission and member states. They are being transmitted this week to individual WTO members to whom they are addressed.

In the case of the EC's major trading partners, both developed and developing countries, requests are made in most services sectors. The main exceptions are health, education (with the exception of the US, to whom requests are made in the area of privately funded higher education services) and audio-visual services.

As regards developing countries, requests are made in line with their levels of development. In the case of the least developed countries, requests are in the main limited to three to five sectors, with the sectors identified being those where liberalisation is most likely to contribute to development-primarily business, financial, telecommunications and transport services.

Throughout the requests, the EC emphasises that it is not seeking the dismantling of public services or the privatisation of state owned companies. The requests also make clear that the EC recognises the importance of liberalisation being underpinned by domestic regulatory frameworks designed to ensure the achievement of public policy objectives.

The requests are not demands. They are an opening basis for negotiations. Nor, as WTO Director-General Mike Moore has confirmed last week, do requests constitute agreements by WTO members to include such sectors as Part of their commitments.