Ugandan service providers will soon be able to render professional services to more than 25 World Trade Organisation (WTO) member countries, information from the Trade ministry indicates so.
This development was agreed upon in a high level meeting of the WTO Services Council on February 5, held in Geneva, Switzerland.
The meeting was convened to discuss measures which would support the growth of service trade in Least Developed countries (LDCs) through granting services exports with preferential treatment.
Worth noting is that Uganda is the current coordinator for the LDC group at the WTO with the Trade minister Amelia Kyambadde, tasked with the coordinating role.
Quoted in a press statement issued by the ministry, a copy of which the Daily Monitor has seen, Ms Kyambadde said this is a chance for Uganda and other LDCs to expand their export base, particularly in services, to the developed WTO member countries.
The development also means that professionals like the doctors, teachers, nurses and accountants, and the like can render services to these countries without being subjected to prohibitive trade demands.
For example, Turkey, one of the 25 countries said it is willing to grant visas to Ugandan and the other professionals from the (LDCs) within 10 minutes upon completion of the online visa application. The press statement named the European Union, Australia, Norway, India, Mexico, Brazil, China, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand and Turkey as some of the countries that made their offers known—granting market preferential treatment (waiver) to Uganda and other LDCs in service trade.
While addressing the February 5 meeting, Ms Kyambadde said with the waiver, the LDC group has moved a step in implementing the operationalisation of the services waiver; one of the milestones set out at the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013.
The Minister reminded members that during the Bali Ministerial Conference in 2013, WTO trade ministers recognised the commitment to grant preferential treatment to LDCs’ services and services suppliers in the form of a waiver and therefore decided to operationalise the decision.
The services waiver to LDCs was granted in 2011 during the 8th WTO Ministerial Conference with duration of 25 years.
However, three years elapsed without any offer from the WTO members from the developed and developing countries.
During the Bali Ministerial Conference in December 2013, the ministers agreed to operationalise the services waiver so that members would make offers.
The private sector players this newspaper spoke to, though excited about the development, were non-committal, saying it’s too early to understand how this will work, let alone determine its impact.
Ms Kyambadde had also asked for simplification of market access and quotas; preferences in administrative areas such as reducing procedures, reducing fees and paper work for visas, work permits, resident permits where LDCs services suppliers have an offer or obtained a contract.