A joint report titled “Trade in Services for Development,” sponsored by the WTO and the World Bank, highlighted the growth of services exports from developing economies, surpassing the global average over the past two decades. However, the report emphasized the need for further action to realize the potential contribution of services trade to development.
During a virtual event, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, the Director-General of the WTO, and Ajay Banga, the President of the World Bank, unveiled the report.
Okonjo-Iweala stated that the future of trade lies in services, digitalization, and sustainability, calling for inclusive action. She highlighted how services trade had become a crucial component of growth and development strategies for member countries, enabling diversification and expansion of export capabilities, making economies more resilient to external shocks.
Banga emphasized the significance of services in creating employment opportunities to alleviate poverty. He noted the need to establish robust infrastructure and mechanisms to support the growth of the services sector, emphasizing the importance of services as the engine for economic progress.
The report acknowledged the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on services trade but highlighted that it remained the most dynamic aspect of global trade. It particularly emphasized the rapid growth of digitally delivered services, outpacing the growth of goods trade. Services contributed over two-thirds of the global GDP and constituted 50% of the workforce in 2021. In terms of value-added, services accounted for 50% of world trade.
Furthermore, the report explored how developing economies can fully harness the benefits of services trade and enhance their development prospects. It proposed an “Aid-for-Trade” package as part of a broader “Trade in Services for Development” initiative, aiming to strengthen the participation of developing and least-developed economies in services trade.
The report called for increased resources to boost the capacities of developing economies, allowing them to diversify exports, implement trade reforms, and offer competitive services globally. It also stressed the importance of international cooperation to enhance the involvement of all WTO members in services trade negotiations, ensuring transparency and predictability in services trade policies.
The report highlighted that adequate access to traded services, spanning sectors such as health, education, finance, transport, and logistics, is crucial in advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.