PracticeConsultingWTO to examine barriers to practice

WTO to examine barriers to practice

Members of the World Trade Organisation are to examine proposals made by the Australian government for dismantling bureaucratic barriers that prevent accountants from practising in countries other than their own.

The suggestion was made at the services round of the WTO, in Geneva, which has just reached the end of its first stage.

Diplomats will now begin a yearlong examination of the proposals, before making formal proposals to liberalise several industries, including accountancy.

Australian officials claim that despite accountancy being subject to an agreed set of WTO guidelines on market access for foreign firms and professionals, there are still significant obstacles regarding overseas practice.

According to the Australians, these include fees, caps on numbers of foreign accountants, residency requirements and the recognition of qualifications.

It is expected the guidelines will become legally binding at the end of the round – probably in 2003 – and could force national governments to liberalise professional accounting regulations.

But, Australia thinks more should be done. In its proposal – the only one to be made to the services round on accountancy – it said: ‘There is scope to strengthen the disciplines, including by extending their reach.’

It said WTO members should do more to ensure domestic regulations do not constitute unnecessary barriers to trade.

And it called on members to ‘review limitations on commercial presence with a view to eliminating barriers that cannot be justified on commercial grounds’.

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