Architectural services

Architectural services have a strong connection with construction activity and/or other business services. The development of the Internet opened up new opportunities, making the cross-border supply of professional services more viable. Technology continues to play an important role in changing architectural practices and in facilitating the expansion of international trade in architectural services. Off-shoring and outsourcing tasks have become an expanding part of architectural trade.

Architectural services (CPC 8671) include advisory and pre-design architectural services, architectural design services, and contract administration services.

Current market access commitments and most-favoured-nation (MFN) exemptions

72 WTO members have undertaken commitments on architectural services. The most commonly observed market access limitations for this sector relate to the type of legal entity for the commercial presence of a foreign company (mode 3), as well as to the participation of foreign capital.

Some members' schedules also include 'additional commitments' on measures not falling under the market access and national treatment obligations.  These additional commitments concern simplified examination procedures for foreign architects (Republic of Korea), holding the qualification examination in English (Malaysia) and a commitment to allow joint contracts between domestic and foreign architects (Republic of Korea).

Treatment of the sector in negotiations

Architectural services were included in the services negotiations that began in 2000.

Under the Doha Development Agenda, the architectural profession took an active interest in the negotiations under Article VI:4 of the General Agreement on Trade in Services.  As part of the early work of the Working Party on Domestic Regulation (WPDR), a number of architectural-related regulatory issues were discussed by delegations, and professional associations were active in providing their views on the applicability of the proposed disciplines to the sector.

After the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in 2005, a group of 11 members prepared a plurilateral request on architectural services, engineering services, and integrated engineering services.  The request, which indicated the types of improvements the group was seeking in the negotiations, was communicated to another group of about 30 members.

Information on sectoral and modal negotiating objectives expressed by members is contained in reports from the Chair issued in 2005 (TN/S/20 and TN/S/23). For an assessment of the plurilateral negotiations in different sectors and areas, consult the Report by the Chair of the Special Session of the Council for Trade in Services to the Trade Negotiations Committee in 2011 (TN/S/36).

Additional information

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  • Background paper on architectural and engineering services (Document code S/C/W/* and keyword “architectur* and Background Note”)  > search > help

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