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The IGPAC Services Working Group analyzes the way existing trade agreements and on-going trade negotiations may impact state and local governments with a focus on regulatory powers and provision of essential services. It monitors GATS negotiations on domestic regulation and sector commitments such as distribution of goods (retail and wholesale), energy distribution, environmental services, financial services, health facilities and higher education. The working group is convened by Kay Wilkie, the chair of the Intergovernmental Policy Advisory Committee (IGPAC).

The Services Working Group (SWG) supports IGPAC, an advisory committee of state and local officials that was created by Congress and appointed by the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). The IGPAC SWG was convened by Kay Wilkie, the chair of IGPAC, in order to provide IGPAC with expertise in regulation of services and trade law. The SWG includes IGPAC members, who have security clearances, and other legal and public policy experts who do not.Consequently, the SWG works with trade policy material that is publicly available.

The WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) applies to more than services or suppliers that cross borders (like telecommunications, tourism or nurses).It also applies to investment in companies that operate in local economy. As a result, GATS reaches deep into services that are traditionally provided by local governments (like hospitals) or regulated by states (like utilities). Over the past few years, the SWG has analyzed:

  • Disciplines on domestic regulation
    Proposed new GATS disciplines include publication mandates and a battery of legal tests like an objectivity test and a simplicity test that could conflict with the way that states regulate complex service industries. Though the official U.S. position is limited to improving transparency, the Chair of the WTO's Working Party on Domestic Regulation has proposed disciplines (at the request of other countries) that do not recognize a right to regulate at the state or local level.

  • Service sectors & case studies
    U.S. negotiators have proposed trade commitments ("offers") that would affect higher education, state regulation of energy, and research and development.  Trade rules and service sectors are abstract and complex.  In order to get a better grip on the issues, the SWG oversaw two case studies that matter to states:
    • Licensing of LNG terminals
    • Licensing of nurses

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