On the occasion of the Service Exporter Network Annual Meeting and Conference November 2008, Johannesburg

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1 On the occasion of the Service Exporter Network Annual Meeting and Conference November 2008, Johannesburg By Dr. Rob Davies, Deputy Minister of Trade & Industry Programme Director, Honoured Guest, it is a great pleasure and privilege to have been invited to say a few remarks at the opening of the first Service Exporter Network Annual Meeting and conference to be held outside of Europe. South Africa is pleased and privileged to have been chosen as the venue for the first event to be held in the developing world. I would like to on behalf of the Department of Trade and Industry and of the government of South Africa, to welcome everybody here in South Africa. I hope that in addition to a productive engagement at this Annual Meeting and Conference, you will also have an opportunity to see something of our country, and in particular to experience something of the high quality services that we are able as a country to provide to visitors. The Service Exporter Network (SEN) is an initiative of the Geneva based International Trade Centre. The ITC is a joint agency of the 1

2 World Trade Organization and the United Nations Conference of Trade and Development, and its role is to provide research and technical information on matters of international trade. Our country has already benefited from a number of ITC facilities, and I myself had the opportunity to visit the ITC during a visit to Geneva. Chairperson, services and trading services are becoming increasingly important in both developed and developing countries. The term services embraces a wide range of activities including, but not limited to, telecommunications, transportation, finance, insurance, distribution, information services, entertainment service and personal services. The growth of these activities in recent decades has been phenomenal. Linked to the micro electronic revolution, and the rise of information communications technology, and of knowledge based industries, service have emerged at the forefront of most economic activity including shaping and reshaping both production and trade in traditional primary and secondary private sectors. Service sectors currently account for two thirds of global output, one third of global employment, and nearly 20% of global trade. Between 2000 and 2007, global services sectors grew at an annual rate of 10.1%, which was 1% more than the growth in trading goods. To be balanced against the general good, in terms of access to knowledge, and the ability to innovate. In South Africa service sectors contribute 74% of our gross domestic product, and 72% of our employment. Of that, back bone 2

3 infrastructure, consisting of energy, transport, services and telecommunications provide 18% of service sectors contribution to GDP, and 8% of service sectors contribution to employment. Mainly public service sector such as education, health and social services contribute 39% of service sectors contribution to GDP, and 47% of their contribution to employment. While mainly private service sectors such as tourism, finance, business services, construction, environmental services, wholesale and retail, trade and personal services, contribute 43% of service sector contribution to GDP, and 45% of their contribution to employment. Service sectors such as finance and construction have been particularly significant contributors to growth during the upswing which we experienced between 2001 and In such a context, it has become increasingly imperative for us to develop strategies for service sector development, as well as, in particular to promote greater involvement by South African companies in trading services. Our Accelerated and Shared Growth Initiative for South Africa, ASGISA, significantly identified two important service sectors, business process outsourcing and off-shoring, and tourism for priority attention. Beyond that, and beyond the sectors which I have already mentioned, service sectors like mining engineering, medical services, and a huge range of business services and transport and communication services related both to expanding trading goods, and to such important developments as our hosting of the 2010 World 3

4 Cup have huge potential in terms of their contribution to GDP and to employment. It is for that reason that we have begun to work on a comprehensive national service sector framework strategy document, which is now in its first draft. This work needs to proceed expeditiously through the consultation and adoption phase, and I am sure that participation in the SEN will be able to offer us a number of important points of reference in this particular endeavor. Cross border trading services as I already indicated is an important area for policy and international negotiations, but a relatively new matter on the agenda of developing countries. A signaling conference was held during the WTO Ministerial in Geneva in July, to access the state of the mandated trading services negotiations which have been ongoing for quite a number of years. Developing countries have historically adopted a relatively defensive stance towards negotiations on trading services whether at multi-lateral or bilateral level. This is probably due to the fact that developing countries perceive that their service sectors are less advanced and less developed than those in the developed world, and are consequently less in a position to benefit from an overall liberalized global trading services environment. In addition to that developing countries have argued the need to retain policy space both to allow for the fostering and development of local service sectors and critically to allow space for necessary 4

5 domestic regulation of service sectors. South Africa s offer into the WTO process indicates that we have indeed a relatively open domestic service regime, and I believe that this has been recognized by many of our partners in the WTO negotiation. But we must continue to insist, particularly at this time of global economic crisis on the right to regulate in the public interest, and not to have this right undermined by unfair demands for access to service sector markets. We need as South Africa to take note of and be proud of the fact that our domestic financial sector has thus far been relatively unscathed by the global credit crunch and financial sector meltdown. This has to a very large extent been due to the quality of our domestic regulation, and measures like the national credit act are now been looked at with renewed interest by a broad range of interested parties across the globe. We must not allow negotiations on trading services to undermine our regulatory capacity in this regard. But while developing countries will, of necessity need to continue to take a strong defensive stance, particularly in respect of the right to regulate in the public interest, it is also necessary that developing countries begin to be much more active in identifying offensive interest in trading services. A feature of the current phase of negotiation on trading services is that some notably countries like India have begun to do just that. Developing countries do have a number of comparative and potentially competitive advantages can be created in particular 5

6 service sectors, and in particular modes of supply of cross boarder services. It is necessary that many other developing countries, other than those that are currently active in advancing offensive interests in trading services begin to identify areas where they too could make headway by cross border export of trade in particular services. Such positions need of course to be informed by an identification of real capacities and real opportunities. Business process outsourcing and off-shoring industry, which has seen the migration not just of call centres, but of many other back office processes from developed to developing countries is but one example of an area where developing countries can benefit, from an appropriately structured multi-lateral deal on trading services skewed to the benefit and particular advantage of developing countries. Again, a network like SEN, and the work of the ITC, can contribute significantly into the identification of opportunities for developing countries in the export of trading services. Programme Director, distinguished participants, I am sure that I don t need to belabor anymore the point that services are important to economic growth, and to employment in individual countries, and that an equitable and development orientation approach to the promotion of trading services, can have significant developmental benefits as well. 6

7 A conference like this, of a Service Exporter Network, able to share experiences of issues arising in promoting service exports held here, in a developing country for the first time, is a significant event that we as South Africa welcome. We are pleased that our Department of Trade and Industry has been able to work with the ITC, the City of Johannesburg, the International Marketing Council and Johannesburg Tourism, to make this event a reality. I wish you all luck with your deliberations over the next few days, and I hope that we will be able to benefit from these deliberations in the formulation of our strategies. Thank you. 7

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