5th OECD Services Meeting, 3-4 February 2005
As part of the annual series of OECD Services Experts Meetings, the Trade Directorate, in co-operation with the World Bank, organised a seminar on trade and universal service goals. The seminar, which was held in Paris on 3-4 February 2005, focused on universal service goals in the context of liberalised markets. The meeting brought together representatives from both OECD and non-OECD economies, including trade officials, academics, experts at a wide range of international organisations, as well as representatives of business and civil society.
The provision of basic services plays an important role in both individual well-being and a country’s economic development. For this reason, general availability of these services – to all consumers regardless of income level and geographic location within the country – has generally been viewed as an important public policy goal. Universal service goals raise a number of important and complex issues within the trade policy context as well as in other policy areas.
The seminar represented an important opportunity to both assess and move beyond the current debate about how the goals of universal service are best achieved and the role that services liberalisation can play in the process.
The meeting explored how services liberalisation can contribute to achieving universal service goals and the types of complementary policies, or regulatory underpinnings, which may be required. The meeting also considered the choices available to governments, both in terms of using liberalisation to expand service provision and in terms of regulation and market incentives to ensure greater availability of quality basic services in liberalised markets.
The meeting anchored the discussions around experiences in four sectors – telecommunications, financial services, environmental infrastructure services (water and sewerage) and energy – and enriched the general discussions with detailed country case studies from a variety of countries. The meeting allowed for an informal exchange of views among a wide array of policy-makers in a non-negotiating environment.