HC Deb 28 October 2002 vol 391 cc564-5W
Syd Rapson

To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if she will publish the text of the final list of requests for market access tabled by the European Commission under the general agreement on trade in services; and what she estimates their impact would be on(a) poverty and (b) sustainable development in each of the developing countries affected. [76267]

Clare Short

Requests for market access as part of the general agreement on trade in services (GATS) are made on a bilateral basis with WTO members making requests directly to other members. The commitments then offered by countries receiving requests will be made public by the WTO and will apply to all WTO members according to the "most favoured nation" principle. Countries are therefore not under any obligation to make their requests public and any information regarding these requests would ordinarily be treated as confidential by the WTO secretariat. The European Commission has, however, published a summary of its requests on its website (http://europa.eu.int/comm/trade/services/gats—sum.htm).

It should be stressed that regardless of the requests being made or the Member making them, no country receiving requests is under any obligation to make commitments in any sector. The GATS is a "bottom-up" agreement whereby countries individually choose in which sectors they want to make binding commitments and in which they do not.

For developing countries to make informed decisions regarding the liberalisation of service sectors (or any other area of trade liberalisation) they must have a clear understanding of the likely impact any such actions will have on their domestic economies and the livelihoods of their citizens, especially the poor. This is why DFID is engaging with a variety of donor organisations (primarily the World bank and UNCTAD) to help ensure that developing countries are given adequate support in this area.

However, the number of developing countries involved in the GATS negotiations is very large (the majority of WTO members are developing countries) and it would not be possible for DFID to collect and present impact assessments for all these countries.

Instead, each country will be responsible for carrying out its own assessments which it may or may not choose to make public. DFID's role is to help ensure that developing countries have the necessary capacity to carry out informative and useful impact assessments which take proper account of the interests of the poor and of sustainable development issues.

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