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.