The General Agreement on
Trade in Services (GATS) is a relatively new agreement. It entered
into force in January 1995 as a result of the Uruguay Round
negotiations to provide for the extension of the multilateral
trading system to services. With a view to achieving a progressively
higher level of liberalization, pursuant to
Article XIX of the GATS, WTO Members are committed to entering into
further rounds of services negotiations. The first such round
started in January 2000.
All Members of the World
Trade Organization are signatories to the GATS and have to assume
the resulting obligations. So, regardless of their countries’ policy
stances, trade officials need to be familiar with this Agreement and
its implications for trade and development. These implications may
be far more significant than available trade data suggest.
Hopefully, these materials
will contribute to a better understanding of the GATS and the
challenges and opportunities of the ongoing negotiations. For users
who are familiar with the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(GATT), similarities and differences will be pointed out where
relevant. Likewise, for users who are familiar with the
balance-of-payments definition of ‘trade’, departures from the
Agreement’s coverage will be explained. Whenever indicated, it is
recommended to supplement these materials with documents available
on the WTO Website (www.wto.org).
To stimulate further thinking
about core concepts and implications of the Agreement, several text
boxes have been inserted to provide ‘Food for Thought’. At the end
of each chapter, Test questions have been added to recapitulate and
ensure understanding of core content.