AND ANALYSIS: WORKING PAPERS
Turning hills into mountains? Current commitments under the GATS and
prospects for change
past months, it has become increasingly clear that the services negotiations
under the Doha Development Agenda will not produce significant improvements
on current commitments unless major new impetus is provided. In an
introductory section, this paper discusses various impediments, from the
perspective of participating governments, that may explain the lack of
negotiating momentum to date. It then provides an overview of existing
commitments under the GATS (by sector, mode of supply, and level of
development) and of the initial offers that had been tabled by early 2005.
Despite the substantial benefits that may be associated with the
liberalization of services trade, the GATS has obviously not yet lived up to
ambitious expectations. For example, on average across all WTO Members, only
one-third of all services sectors have been included in current schedules of
commitments; and many entries have been combined with significant
limitations on market access and national treatment or with the complete
exclusion of particular types of transactions (modes of supply) from
coverage. While the ongoing services negotiations provide an opportunity to
complement the rule-making efforts of the Uruguay Round with genuine market
opening, many governments apparently have found it difficult, despite
generally more restrictive access regimes and, thus, potentially higher
gains from liberalization than in merchandise trade, to undertake or
envisage economically significant bindings across a broad range of services.
Five years after the inception of the services round, current negotiating
arrangements, based mainly on (bilateral) exchanges of requests and offers,
may need to be complemented by common points of reference to provide greater
focus and guidance.
This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress.
This paper represents the opinions of individual staff members or visiting
scholars, and is the product of professional research. It is not meant to
represent the position or opinions of the WTO or its Members, nor the
official position of any staff members. Any errors are the fault of the
authors. Copies of working papers can be requested from the divisional
secretariat by writing to: Economic Research and Statistics Division,
World Trade Organization, rue de Lausanne 154, CH 1211 Genève 21,
Switzerland. Please request papers by number and title.