July 13, 2012 / 6:48 PM / 7 years ago

US services group eyes trade gains with new chief

WASHINGTON, July 13 (Reuters) - A U.S. industry group representing financial, insurance, telecommunication and other service companies has picked former senior U.S. trade official Peter Allgeier as its next president, just as services trade talks are picking up steam.

Allgeier, a former U.S. ambassador to the World Trade Organization, told reporters this week he had high hopes for negotiations in Geneva on a proposed International Services Agreement, even though big developing countries like China, India and Brazil are shunning the talks.

“I think you’re going to see a lot of activity in 2013,” Allgeier said. “Frankly, in Geneva, people have been waiting a long time to have some action and this is the biggest action that’s going on right now.”

Allgeier, who worked as a U.S. trade official for nearly 30 years, will take over as president of the Coalition of Service Industries in September, replacing Bob Vastine, who will retire as the group’s leader after nearly 16 years.

The group’s diverse members include AT&T, Citigroup, Fedex, Halliburton, HP, IBM, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, NewsCorp, Time Warner, UPS, Visa International and Walmart.

Allgeier’s last years in the U.S. government were spent working on the ill-fated Doha round of world trade talks, which were launched in 2001 and never came to conclusion.

Negotiations to open services markets around the globe to more foreign competition were part of the Doha round, but took a back seat to talks on agriculture and manufacturing, where differences proved too great to bridge.

“I think one of the biggest problems that was haunting services over the past few years was being tied into the Doha round, and it was all or nothing and you know which way that came out,” Allgeier said.

The proposed International Services Agreement would be among a subset of WTO members, currently numbering 18, including the 27-nation European Union. The group issued a statement last week that discussions on the pact were entering a new phase.

While big developing countries such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa have stayed away from the talks, a few others such as Turkey, Colombia, Costa Rica, Pakistan and Peru are taking part and U.S. industry hopes more will join.

U.S. services companies also eyeing new business opportunities from the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact between the United States and ten other countries in North and South America, Asia and Oceania, Allgeier said.

Possible bilateral trade talks between the EU and the United States also could open up new markets, he said. (Reporting By Doug Palmer; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

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