Press Release - 11th March 2010 - The move towards strengthening regional capacity in World Trade Organization (WTO) General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and services negotiations took another step forward with the conclusion of a three-day workshop held in Nadi, Fiji from 8 -10 March 2010.

The workshop, jointly organized by the WTO and the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat, was attended by trade officials from the Forum Island Countries (FICs). It was conducted by WTO Secretariat trade in services experts with regional speakers invited from the University of the South Pacific and Institute of International Trade at the University of Adelaide, Australia.

According to the Secretary General of the Forum Secretariat, Tuiloma Neroni Slade, "the workshop was very timely and provided an opportunity for the FICs to familiarize themselves with Trade in Services negotiations as well as associated technical aspects of the trade in services negotiations."

The workshop informed trade policy makers and negotiators about issues related to services trade under different modes of supply, the interpretation of individual GATS provisions and developments in the on-going services negotiations. It also covered techniques used in the scheduling of specific commitments under the GATS," Mr Slade added.

"As is common among Small Island States, policy makers in our region are faced with limited capacity and a diverse set of development priorities and challenges, amidst the multiple and increasingly complex negotiations on trade in services liberalization," said Mr Slade.

Mr Aik Hoe Lim from the WTO agreed that "services component of FIC economies, for both developing and Least Developed Countries (LDCs) is gaining importance in terms of its contribution to employment, enhancing competitiveness and foreign exchange earnings."

"As such," Mr Lim said, "the GATS will have implications for the development and growth prospects of the Pacific region through its impact on poverty reduction, human development, including gender, as well as for attainment of regional integration on the whole."

Mr Dale Honeck from the WTO highlighted the careful balances built into the GATS structure for example between protecting the trade interests of domestic and foreign services suppliers, and guaranteeing that the governments retained the essential rights to regulate.

The skills acquired through this workshop would assist those FICs that are engaged with the WTO to fulfill their respective WTO trade in services obligations and clarify issues related to WTO accession negotiations. It will also develop FICs capacity with respect to trade in services related engagement in the context of the Pacific Island Countries Trade Agreement (PICTA), Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and Pacific Agreement on Closer Economic Relation (PACER) Plus negotiations.