Services trade

Ranging from communications to transport, finance, education, tourism and environmental services, the services sector has become the backbone of the global economy and the most dynamic component of international trade. Recent technological advances have made it easier to supply services across borders, thereby opening new opportunities for national economies and individuals. While increasingly traded in their own right, services also serve as crucial inputs into the production of goods. In value-added terms, services account for about 50% of world trade. 

Services trade policies are an important determinant of foreign direct investment, participation in global value chains, productivity and exports of manufactured products.  Policies in relation to services trade also contribute to a wide range of national objectives, including the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.

The creation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was one of the landmark achievements of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. 

See also:

Services negotiations

SERVICES TOPICS
The GATS covers all services, with few exceptions.

back to top

News 

back to top

Introduction to services trade and the GATS 

GATS: objectives, coverage and disciplines
An in-depth look, in question-and-answer form.

Introduction to the GATS (PDF)

Interactive course: General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

  

back to top

The agreement

General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS):  The GATS is a legally binding set of rules covering international trade in services. See also related instruments.

Consult findings of the WTO Appellate Body and dispute settlement panels on the GATS, as well as  related decisions and other significant actions taken by relevant WTO bodies in the Analytical Index — Guide to WTO Law and Practice.

Members' schedules of specific commitments and lists of MFN exemptions

  • Introduction, with links to commitments and exemptions
  • I-TIP Services Database
    The database contains the services schedules of commitments for WTO members.
  • How to read a schedule
  • The protocols
    Since the Uruguay Round, agreement was reached on negotiations in specific sectors: telecommunications, financial services and movement of natural persons. These additional agreements are known as “protocols".

Trade in services and LDCs

The GATS provides for “special treatment” for least-developed countries (LDCs). This has been pursued through, among other things, a waiver to allow preferential treatment for LDC exporters of services.

back to top

Work in the WTO 

Services negotiations :  WTO members continue discussions on advancing negotiations to achieve a progressively higher level of liberalization, as mandated in Article XIX of the GATS. Members are also negotiating on domestic regulation in services.

Operation of the GATS: The Council for Trade in Services and its subsidiary bodies - including the Committee on Trade in Financial Services and the Committee on Specific Commitments - is responsible for facilitating the operation of the GATS.

> Current Chairperson

back to top

Disputes 

 

back to top

Data on services trade

back to top

Contact and enquiry points 

Contact points are intended to facilitate the access of developing country members' service suppliers to information, and enquiry points to provide information to other WTO members.

Search Documents Online
These links open a new window: allow a moment for the results to appear.

  • Contact and enquiry points notified to the Council for Trade in Services (Document code S/ENQ/78*)   > search   > help

SERVICES TRADE BAROMETER

The Services Trade Barometer is issued twice a year as a companion to the Goods Trade Barometer.

COVID-19: Measures affecting trade in services

Information on measures affecting trade in services taken in the context of the COVID-19 crisis has been compiled by the WTO Secretariat. This information is an informal situation report and an attempt to provide transparency with respect to measures taken in the context of the pandemic. The Secretariat will seek verification of new measures on an ad hoc basis.

I-TIP Services Database

This integrated database — a joint initiative of the WTO and the World Bank — consists of information on members' commitments and MFN exemptions under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), services commitments in regional trade agreements, applied measures affecting access to and operations in economies' services markets, and relevant services statistics.

 

 

Staff working papers on Services

 

Videos
See also