Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Trade, Services and Development (7-8 May 2018)

09 May 2018

Services trade experts meet to feed knowledge and experience into intergovernmental processes in support of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The sixth session of the Multi-Year Expert Meeting on Trade, Services and Development was held in Geneva on 7–8 May 2018.

This expert meeting had a focus on three of six Sustainable Development Goals that will be reviewed at the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development in New York in July of this year.

These were Goal 6 on ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all, Goal 7 on ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all and Goal 12 on ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns, including reducing food losses along production and supply chains.

A commonly shared view among participants is that availability, affordability, reliability and sustainability of the services reviewed is critical to achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and leaving no one behind, including the poorest and most vulnerable communities in developing countries.

While trade in services is an integral component of international trade, which is defined under Goal 17 as a “means of implementation” for the 2030 Agenda, not much emphasis has so far been given to the role of trade in services in implementing Goals 6, 7 and 12.

Therefore, participants from governments, international and regional organizations, academia, private sector associations, and civil societies had a rich exchange of experiences and ideas on this role of trade in water and sanitation services, energy services and food-related logistics services.

Experiences from several countries including Algeria, China, Democratic Republic of Congo, France, Korea, Nigeria, Paraguay and Tanzania were shared at the meeting.

Other topics raised included:

  • The need for strong legal and regulatory frameworks and institutional arrangements to guide and ensure the development of these services in line with the Sustainable Development Goals. Policies, including trade policies, should be designed and implemented within such legal and institutional frameworks.

  • The huge need for financing infrastructure for water and sanitation, energy and logistics networks, as shown by the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) on the continent’s need to connect electricity across the whole continent, and the requirement for private sector investment, including from foreign services suppliers, to complement public sector investment.

  • Water security and ownership is a legitimate concern in many countries as it is also a matter of a basic human right and thus needs careful and calibrated approaches, while improving water supply infrastructure to increase access and improving sanitation are less politically sensitive and can be addressed including through trade cooperation.

  • Energy and energy trade are important for sustained economic growth and poverty reduction. However, rural and poor areas, as well as women, must be considered when energy policies are devised (including, for example, by providing clean and efficient cooking stoves).

  • Developing countries could import physical and human capital (skills and expertise) to develop their energy services sector since provision of energy services has become increasingly sophisticated and technology-intensive.

  • Trade in logistics services could increase competition and the provision of more efficient services, with lower costs, higher quality and reduced delivery time. Given the development of integrated logistics services, countries should take a holistic approach covering different modes and segments of logistics services in improving the regulatory environment for enhancing their logistics performance.

  • South-South and triangular cooperation in the provision of water and sanitation services, energy services and logistics services could be pursued as these are mutually beneficial to countries involved.

Participants called on UNCTAD to increase cooperation and collaboration with other international organizations on trade in services with a view to supporting developing countries in their efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals.