WTO members advance discussions on Services Council’s role in implementing MC12 outcomes

WTO members advance discussions on Services Council’s role in implementing MC12 outcomes

WTO members continued their discussions on how work in the Services Council can contribute to implementing outcomes of the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) at a Council meeting on 8 December. Topics under discussion included the Services Waiver for least-developed countries (LDCs), the e-commerce Work Programme, the pandemic response and WTO reform. The chair of the Council, Ambassador Kemvichet Long of Cambodia, encouraged members to continue talking with each other, with the aim of taking forward concrete proposals. Members also raised various concerns about measures affecting trade in services.

Ambassador Long also indicated that he would be consulting with delegations on possible next steps.

LDC Services Waiver

Malawi, on behalf of the WTO LDC Group, underlined that the MC12 Outcome Document instructs the Council to explore ways to improve LDC services export data, to review information on suppliers and consumers of LDC services in preference-granting members, and to assess best practices in facilitating the use of these preferences in LDCs. Ministers also instructed the General Council to report on progress on these areas to the 13th Ministerial Conference.

Following up on its intervention at the last Council meeting on 14 October, the LDC Group indicated it is working on a written submission to the Council outlining the  concrete steps that could be taken to put into action the preferences granted by members to LDCs. Preference-granting members indicated their openness to consider LDCs’ proposals.

Members also tasked the WTO Secretariat with preparing a methodological note on further improving data on LDCs’ services exports.

A total of 51 members have notified preferences for LDC services and service suppliers under the waiver. The waiver was formalized by a decision adopted at the 2011 Ministerial Conference.

A total of 36 WTO members are classified as LDCs. More information on the waiver can be found here.

E-commerce Work Programme

WTO members continued discussing the contribution of the Services Council to the Work Programme on electronic commerce. They outlined the usefulness of sharing experiences and disseminating best practices on e-commerce and requested the WTO Secretariat to prepare a compilation of the points discussed at the Council to date. Members also exchanged suggestions on possible future areas for discussion in the Council, including on consumer protection, financial services and logistics services.

Ministers decided at MC12 to extend the moratorium on e-commerce — under which members agreed to continue the practice of not imposing customs duties on electronic transmissions — and to reinvigorate the Work Programme on Electronic Commerce, including its development dimension.

Other MC12 mandates

With regard to the pandemic response, some members shared information about their domestic experiences. A number of members said they would welcome engaging in further exchanges on best practices.

On WTO reform, at the request of members, the chair announced that efforts would be made to schedule Council meetings back to back with meetings of its subsidiary bodies to facilitate capital-based participation. He also said he would issue annotated agendas in advance of Council meetings.

The chair also encouraged members to continue talking with each other about concrete proposals to implement the mandates of MC12 and said he would consult with delegations on next steps.

Services trade concerns

Members discussed four specific trade concerns previously addressed in the Council involving cybersecurity measures and 5-G-related measures among other topics.

Japan and the United States, echoed by Australia and the European Union, reiterated concerns about cybersecurity measures of China and Viet Nam. China repeated its concerns about Australia’s 5G measures and its concerns with certain US measures related to specific Chinese mobile applications and telecom providers. China also reiterated its concerns regarding India’s measures in relation to mobile applications.

Review of exemptions to WTO most-favoured-nation principle

Members agreed on the process to review exemptions to the most-favoured-nation principle, keeping with the practice of a question-and-answer process used for the latest 2016 review. The review will examine whether the conditions creating the need for an exemption to the most-favoured nation treatment principle still prevail. Under consideration will be exemptions granted for a period of over five years.(1) The full list of members’ exemptions is available here.

Conflict in Ukraine

Many members took the floor to express their strong condemnation of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its subsequent actions. The Russian delegate responded by saying that the WTO was not the proper venue for a discussion of this nature.


  1. As foreseen by the GATS’s Annex of Article II Exemptions.
Previously posted at :