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WTO deal on services to benefit legal sector
Tanaiste Leo Varadkar Pic: RollingNews.ie

03 Dec 2021 / regulation Print

WTO deal on services to benefit legal sector

Negotiations on an initiative aimed at reducing barriers to trade in services among countries worldwide have ended with a joint statement from 67 members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) committing themselves to an agreement.

The Services Domestic Regulation covers the requirements, procedures, and applicable technical standards for qualification and licences for service providers – including those in the legal sector.

Leo Varadkar (Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, pictured) welcomed the statement, saying that it would facilitate greater trade in services, which account for almost 60% of Irish exports.

The OECD has estimated that annual cost savings from the deal could amount to $150 billion globally, due to the reduction of red tape and increased transparency.


The new rules cover increased levels of transparency by licensing authorities, when advertising and evaluating licence applications from firms supplying foreign services in local markets.

The agreement also contains new disciplines relating to licensing requirements and procedures, qualification requirements, and technical standards affecting trade in services.

The Government believes that this will provide greater clarity to market-access requirements for Irish services exporters in a range of key markets.

“When rules such as licensing requirements are unclear and unpredictable, this can result in highly qualified service providers being unable to access foreign markets in a fair and non-discriminatory manner,” the Tánaiste said.

‘Greater predictability’

He also pointed out that this was the first time that a WTO text had contained a provision on non-discrimination between men and women in authorisation procedures for service suppliers.

I Stephanie Boyce (Law Society of England and Wales president) said that, for the legal sector, the deal would lead to greater predictability and information about regulatory requirements in different jurisdictions.

“Nearly all international commercial transactions require the services of lawyers from two or more jurisdictions, and this can be done most effectively where foreign and local firms can work smoothly together.

“This agreement will facilitate that cooperation,” she said.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland