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Ongoing negotiations on countries domestic regulations under the GATS Article 1:4 mandate.

The GATS already contains disciplines on barriers to trade in services in the form of restrictions on https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/26-gats_01_e.htm#art16">market access (Article XVI) and on https://www.wto.org/english/docs_e/legal_e/26-gats_01_e.htm#art17 national treatment</a> (Article XVII). Market access restrictions encompass quantitative restrictions such as limitations on the number of services suppliers, total value of services transactions or assets, total number of services operations, the total quantity of services output, the total number of persons that may be employed, as well as measures restricting or requiring specific types of legal entity or joint venture, and foreign equity limitations. <p> The obligation of national treatment prohibits the discriminatory treatment of foreign services and services suppliers when compared to domestic services and services suppliers. In drafting the GATS, negotiators recognized that non-quantitative, non-discriminatory measures relating to licensing and qualification requirements and procedures, and technical standards could also adversely affect trade in services. For example, excessively lengthy, complex and opaque licensing procedures may discourage foreign services providers from doing business in the market of another WTO member. By the same token, lack of objective and transparent criteria, on the basis of which authorities would grant a qualification, may disguise protectionist intentions. Article VI:4 is not intended to start a deregulatory process, but rather to lead to better regulation that has the potential to address and prevent undesirable regulatory practices. In more general terms, WTO negotiations on domestic regulation disciplines seek to boost good regulatory practices and to enhance regulatory quality, with a view to boosting economic growth and development. </p> Evolution of the negotiations Between 1995 and 1998, WTO members negotiated in the Working Party on Professional Services the <a href="http://docsonline.wto.org/imrd/directdoc.asp?DDFDocuments/t/s/l/63.doc" target="_blank">Disciplines on Domestic Regulation in the Accountancy Sector</a> (<u>S/L/64</u>) and adopted the Guidelines for Mutual Recognition Agreements or Arrangements in the Accountancy Sector (S/L/38). The Accountancy Disciplines were intended to be integrated into the GATS at the end of the Doha Round of trade negotiations (S/L/63). Therefore, they have not yet entered into force. Subsequently, a <a href="https://www.wto.org/english/tratop_e/serv_e/s_coun_e.htm#domestic">Working Party on Domestic Regulation</a> was established in 1999 for the continuation of the negotiations, replacing the earlier Working Party on Professional Services. The mandate of the Working Party is to develop generally applicable disciplines and to develop disciplines as appropriate for individual sectors.</p> <p> WTO members have focused on negotiating general disciplines on domestic regulation applicable to any services sectors within the scope of the GATS. Members felt that work on general disciplines would be more efficient than negotiating specific disciplines for each sector. </p> <p> In December 2005, the WTO Hong Kong Ministerial Declaration called on members to intensify negotiations and to develop a text for adoption before the end of the Doha Round.&nbsp; </p> <p> In the Working Party on Domestic Regulation, more than 60 WTO members have submitted drafting proposals. These were consolidated into a number of texts issued by the chair of the working party. &nbsp;The most recent was contained in a 2011 <a href="http://docsonline.wto.org/imrd/directdoc.asp?DDFDocuments/t/s/wpdr/w45.doc" target="_blank" title="MS word format; opens in a new window">Progress Report</a> reflecting progress in the negotiations up to 2011 and containing possible options for disciplines on domestic regulation.&nbsp;</p> <p>Following a slowdown in negotiations between 2012 and 2015, activities were revived in 2016, with a number of text proposals submitted by members in the hope of securing an outcome by the 11th Ministerial Conference (MC11) in Buenos Aires in December 2017. However, no outcome was achieved at MC11. </p> The Working Party on Domestic Regulation met most recently in March 2019 to discuss a revised proposal for disciplines on domestic regulation.</p>