ICC Document & publication

Negotiations on Maritime Transport in the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

At a Special Session of the WTO Council for Trade in Services in October 2000, a number of countries issued a joint statement on maritime transport services. The paper describes the background to the maritime negotiations; the likely policy objectives of shippers and other users such as intermediaries and the shipping industry, the key issues, and makes recommendations.

The great majority of the world’s trade in goods moves by sea. A truly competitive maritime transport sector is therefore crucial to global economic wellbeing. In many respects international shipping markets are significantly unfettered by government regulations. Nevertheless, there are remaining practices and market barriers in the trade of maritime services that need to be addressed.

The ICC policy statement on “world business priorities for the new round of multilateral trade negotiations“, issued in June 1999, contained the following statement in relation to maritime transport:

ICC supports efforts to further liberalize maritime transport services provided liberalization is substantial and there is no acceptance of ‘grandfathering’ restrictive practices. Meaningful and comprehensive market access commitments, including the free establishment of maritime and related services, by a defined critical mass of countries are essential to any new GATS agreement on maritime transport services.

At a Special Session of the WTO Council for Trade in Services in October 2000, a number of countries issued a joint statement on maritime transport services. These countries considered that it was time for the issue of maritime services to be addressed in the framework of the current services negotiations.

The purpose of this paper is to help ICC prepare its own position. The paper describes the background to the maritime negotiations; the likely policy objectives of shippers and other users such as intermediaries and the shipping industry, the key issues, and makes recommendations. The paper does not deal in substance with issues of maritime safety and the environment; it is clear however that further liberalization must have due regard for those considerations.