Objectives and principles of the services negotiations

The main objectives are:

  • achieving progressive liberalization of trade in services, as mandated in the GATS
  • ensuring flexibilities for developing countries, with special priority to be given to least-developed countries
  • respecting the needs of small and medium-sized service suppliers, particularly in developing countries, with a commitment to respect “the existing structure and principles of the GATS”.


No sectors or modes of supply were excluded from the scope of the negotiations at the outset. Negotiators agreed that special attention would be given to the export interests of developing countries. Negotiations would also include discussions on eliminating existing exemptions from most-favoured nation treatment in order to ensure equal treatment among all WTO members.

The Agreement's rule-making agenda — concerning disciplines on domestic regulation (Article VI:4), emergency safeguards (Article X), government procurement (Article XIII) and subsidies (Article XV) — was integrated into the wider context of the services negotiations.

Modalities and procedures 

WTO members' current schedules of commitments are the starting point for negotiations rather than actual market conditions. Request-offer negotiations are the main approach.

If a member has undertaken autonomous liberalization since previous negotiations, the member may seek "credit" from a trading partner. The criteria for assessing the value of autonomous measures were defined by the Services Council in ‘Modalities for the Treatment of Autonomous Liberalization’ (TN/S/6).