The "Model Schedule" is a supplementary document that refers to components and categories which become the scope of liberalization and examples of preferable description concerning transparency in domestic regulations. In that regard, we consider that the idea of the "Model Schedule" would be acceptable to member countries. As each country makes further commitments, they would not merely use an indicator, but each country would be able to use its discretion to respond based on its level of obligation. There would be value in considering, as a realistic approach, the use of the "Model Schedule" as an educational text in negotiations to improve schedule of specific commitments.
Examples of the "Model Schedule"
Both the European Services Forum (ESF) and the Coalition of Service Industries (CSI) of the United States have made detailed proposals concerning the "Model Schedule." The proposal aims to secure a certain degree of liberalization, and to improve transparency concerning information on immigration procedures, detailing: (1) understanding concerning important components applied in "horizontal commitments" and (2) best practices concerning domestic regulations stipulating the improvement of transparency in procedures. The position of the Nippon Keidanren on these components is as follows:
Understanding concerning important components applied in "horizontal commitments"
In understanding concerning important articles applied in "horizontal commitments," the ESF and CSI propose that the subject of conditions and qualifications for "temporary movement of natural persons" be defined.
We consider it of great importance that clarification of the conditions and qualifications of the "temporary movement of natural persons", which is currently ambiguously defined, should heighten system transparency and obviate arbitrary application to the greatest degree possible. Concerning the subject of the definition in the category "short-term, intra-corporate visits," we support the inclusion of new definitions thus: "intra-corporate movements for the purpose of training in business techniques or methods," and "short-term visits to fulfill contracts." However, given that currently various forms of corporate activity exist, there is no need to limit short-term periods of stay up to 365 days. Rather, we consider that the definition should be expanded, with the exception of movement of persons who are seeking permanent citizenship or immigration status as is provided in the GATS.
Concerning the sections described in the "GATS Visa," pertaining to conditions and qualifications, please refer to Annex 3 of this opinion paper.
Best practices concerning domestic regulations stipulating the improvement of transparency in procedures
In best practices concerning domestic regulations stipulating the improvement of transparency in procedures, the ESF and CSI propose that certain standards be incorporated for such best practices as: securing transparency in procedures; clarification of approval for temporary admission within a defined period of time; establishing a system for prior comments; securing transparency in economic needs tests; and establishing contact points.
The Nippon Keidanren is taking serious note of the components in the proposal by the ESF and CSI. In addition, it is thought that their suggested standards are appropriate. (Note: Concerning opinions on each component, see Annex 2: Securing Transparency in Immigration Regulations and Procedures and Clarifying Member country's Schedule of Specific Commitments and Annex 3: Facilitation and Expedition of Immigration Control Procedures.) Accordingly, it would be preferable that in negotiations, best practices concerning domestic regulations that incorporate such components will be formulated and that commitments will be also incorporated to the greatest extent possible as part of the additional commitments in Article XVIII.
When companies undertake activities that transcend national borders, in order to effectively utilize human resources who are of a variety of nationalities and who have expert knowledge and skills, intra-corporate movements for training and skills development purposes is of the utmost importance. In addition, if it were to become easier for developing countries to gain opportunities for their nationals working at branch offices of an international company to receive education or training and skills development in another country, there would be the merit of promoting technology transfer to the developing country itself.
The Nippon Keidanren hopes that the handling of "intra-corporate movements for the purpose of training and skills development" will be clearly stipulated in the schedule of commitments. Furthermore, if possible, in work concerning clarification of the definition of existing schedule of commitments, we would request that a common definition be newly created for "intra-corporate movement for training and skills development purposes." For example, in the "Model Schedule" of ESF and CSI, the following definition is used: "employees of a company or partnership who are sent to its office in another country for training in business techniques or methods." This definition would conform to the needs of the Japanese corporations.
In addition, in the case of the introduction of the Model Schedule, we expect that the "intra-corporate movements for training and skills development purposes" will be incorporated into the "temporary movement of natural persons" and that each country will promote their utilization of this definition.
Opaque and complicated procedures relating to visas and work permits are one of the main factors contributing to rising business operation costs. Through promoting e-information concerning immigration control procedures and making them more accessible, corporations will be able to reduce unnecessary costs. In addition, governments of the countries receiving applications, will, through the creation of a system designed to enhance information transparency, be able to reduce administrative costs.
Policies Relating to Simplification of Access and Information Made to be Clear and More Detailed
The Nippon Keidanren requests that each country will make efforts to publicize the following information related to immigration control: (1) basic information pertaining to the content of visa and work permit categories and periods of stay, etc.; (2) required documents for immigration and entry permit examination; (3) standard time for procedures required until issuance of visas and work permits; (4) conditions for visa/permit extension and standard time for procedures required for visa/permit extension procedures; and (5) information concerning standards for issuance of visas and work permits.
In particular, given that the immigration authorities of each country are required to improve transparency, including notification of the situation when the standard required time for visa/permit extension procedures is not adhered to, and provide reasons in response to queries concerning the denial of the issuance of visas and work permits, it is hoped that cooperation among immigration and trade authorities will be enhanced.
As a means of enhancing transparency, in order to facilitate access to information, the establishment of web sites containing information about immigration investigation procedures as well as contact points could be considered. In addition, it would also be beneficial for each country to establish contact points concerning the "temporary movement of natural persons."
Given that in each country the definitions of words and phrases that are used in commitments are different, and different interpretations of these words and phrases exist, the resulting ambiguity in standards in commitments causes an expansion in opacity and invites arbitrary application of immigration procedures. The Nippon Keidanren expects that through clarifying definitions the transparency of procedures can be enhanced and existing commitments made more effective.
Categories that Need Clarification
Specifically, it is hoped that the definition of the following words and phrases could be clarified and harmonized: intra-corporate transferees, executives, managers or senior personnel, professionals, and contractual service providers. Furthermore, since there is no definition for young company personnel, one proposal would be to create a new classification, that of "potential key business personnel." (See the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Report: "Service Providers on the Move: A Closer Look at Labour Mobility and the GATS")
In Article XVI of GATS, sectors where market access commitments are undertaken, the measures which a Member shall not maintain or adopt, either on the basis of a regional subdivision or on the basis of its entire territory, unless otherwise specified in its schedule are defined. This covers economic needs tests. Countries that have instituted economic needs tests should make efforts to clarify and make more transparent standards regarding the use of these tests.
Even if a country makes some commitments concerning temporary movement of natural persons in its schedule, administrative procedures relating to visas and work permits are dealt with in the same manner as immigration control procedures for immigrants seeking permanent residency. Corporations have not been able to fully utilize the merits of the deregulation, therefore, further action needs to be taken, within the immigration control system, in order to increase the effectiveness of the liberalization achieved under the GATS.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation's (APEC) Business Travelers Card (ABTC) was designed to allow smooth intra-corporate movement in the APEC intra-regional area. This system allows free travel within the intra-regional area with only a passport and the ABTC. The advantage of implementing a similar system within a large multinational framework is that the temporary movement of persons with high skill and knowledge will be simplified and accelerated. In this sense, Japanese corporations are interested in the Governments of India, Europe and American industries and others' proposal for a GATS Visa.
Issues for Consideration
At the same time, it is noteworthy that the GATS Visa is only applicable to the services to which a member made commitments and that the current existing agreement allow only very limited services. If the GATS Visa is to be introduced, it is vital that the discussions be aimed at further improvement of each country's schedule commitment and securing of transparancy of domestic regulations.
The European Services Forum (ESF) and the Coalition of Service Industries (CSI) propose the GATS Visa for "short-term, intra-corporate visit" and "short-term visits to fulfill contracts." The Nippon Keidanren basically supports the idea of the GATS Visa. However, other issues such as process, conditions and qualifications, extension procedures, and the regime must be carefully considered from various angles. If the implementation of the GATS Visa is burdensome, it is our hope that each member country considers an immigration process that includes a special system or process to facilitate and expedite the temporary movement of natural persons.