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RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS: WORKING PAPERS

Services Liberalization from a WTO/GATS Perspective: In Search of Volunteers

There has been virtually no liberalization under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to date.

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Most existing commitments are confined to guaranteeing the levels of access that existed in the mid-1990s, when the Agreement entered into force, in a limited number of sectors. The only significant exceptions are the accession schedules of recent WTO Members and the negotiating results in two sectors (financial services and, in particular, basic telecommunications) that were achieved after the Uruguay Round. The offers tabled so far in the ongoing Round would not add a lot of substance either. Apparently, negotiators are ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’. For one thing, the traditional mercantilist paradigm, relying on reciprocal exchanges of concessions, seems to be provide less momentum than in the goods area. For another, there are additional — technical, economic and political — frictions that tend to render services negotiations more complicated, time-consuming and resource-intensive. The novelty of the Agreement adds an additional element of legal uncertainty from a negotiator’s perspective. This paper discusses various options that might help to overcome the ensuing reticence to engage. Few appear within reach at present, however. The bare minimum that would need to be achieved is to revive work on scheduling and classification issues with a view to putting both existing commitments and new offers on a safer footing, and to improve compliance with long-existing information/notification obligations.

No: ERSD-2009-05

Author:
Rudolf Adlung — WTO

Manuscript date: February 2009

Key Words:

GATS, trade in services, liberalization, policy reform

JEL classification numbers:

F13, F15, F53, F59

 
  

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This is a working paper, and hence it represents research in progress. This paper represents the opinions of the author, 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 author. 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 Geneva 21, Switzerland. Please request papers by number and title.

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