Learning by Not Doing: Subsidy Disciplines in Services Trade
A new E15 Think Piece by Pierre Sauvé and Marta Soprana produced under the E15 Initiative (E15). Implemented jointly by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD) and the World Economic Forum, the E15 convenes world-class experts and institutions to generate strategic analysis and recommendations for government, business and civil society geared towards strengthening the global trade system.
This paper explores the hitherto futile quest for developing disciplines on the trade- and investment-distorting effects of services subsidies. It sheds light on the multiplicity of factors that have weighed on the conduct of negotiations on subsidy disciplines in a services trade context at both the global and preferential levels, and advances a few thoughts on what the future may hold for the adoption of such disciplines. The analysis suggests that it is rather unlikely that WTO Members will any time soon reach a consensus on the matter of subsidy disciplines for services beyond those that currently (and timidly) obtain in the GATS and in many preferential trade agreements. The main reason behind such a conclusion stems from a marked rise in the value of preserving policy space in a trading environment characterized by considerably greater global market contestability than two decades ago.