Dodwell in CTI Meetings at Singapore - Post 5

April 02, 2012


 

Sondang Angraini, new Indonesian chair of the Group on Services

 

While Singapore’s business centre quietened out over the weekend for all sensible people to take a break, APEC’s Group on Services officials trudged loyally into the vast empty spaces of the Sands Expo and Convention Centre. The area was not entirely desolate – there were some Singaporeans sidling into the glitzy Sands Casino next door – but the earnest business areas populated by APEC were pretty lonely places.

In spite of – or maybe even because of – the isolation, a remarkably interesting and substantial agenda was pursued. I reckon there were at least five areas of interest to the business community:
 

  • Regulating foreign accountancy professionals: Australia provided a commendably brief set of Non-binding Guidelines, underpinned by a “common competency framework”. For those interested, best to go to www.accountingservices.apec.org.

  • A database helping services exporters to sell their services abroad: Australia has championed what APEC calls the “STAR” Database (STAR for Services Trade Access Requirements – ugh!) which now covers 11 of the 21 APEC economies, and enables services companies to search easily for the market access and regulatory requirements by economy and sector. So far, just five services sectors are covered – financial services, mining and energy services, transport and logistics, telecoms, and professional services. Plans are afoot to broaden to all 21 economies, and to more sectors. Most at the meeting said anecdotally that businesses that had accessed the database were highly enthusiastic. See www.servicestradeforum.org

  • China is proposing to underwrite a study and workshop on Logistics Services to be held at the end of this year, which should be interesting for work nbing undertaken in ABAC on supply chain chokepoints both in goods treade and services trade.

  • Indonesia is proposing a study on retail and distribution services which looks poised to tackle head on the issue of whether big multinational retail groups and distribution goods bring net benefits, or whether they hurt local small retailers. The ABAC services report submitted to leaders in Hawaii included a small case on this issue, and the Indonesia study would be valuable to develop on this work.

  • Colleagues in PECC presented eloquently on the need for more work on Services Liberalisation, including APEC consideration of the WTO “Really Good Friends of the Chair” initiative aimed at launching a Services-only trade liberalization round. At present, just 16 economies have become “Really Good Friends”, and part of PECC’s aim is to get more APEC member economies on board so that a “critical mass” can be established to make a “services only” round worthwhile.

  • Also on speeding liberalization of Services Trade and Investment, officials reviewed the value of the first-ever joint meeting of GOS and MAG in Moscow on Embedded and Embodied Services. From a starting point that the joint discussion was valuable, themes for future meetings were considered. Three candidates seem evident: interdependence of trade in Environmental Goods and Services; tackling barriers to foreign investment – seen as critical for augmenting services trade; and regulatory reform, aimed at reducing the regulatory barriers to trade in both goods and services. No final decision was taken, but a majority of officials seemed very attracted to examination of Environmental Goods and Services.



* Read Dodwell's blog posts from CTI Meetings at Singapore

 

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