WTO Working Papers

WTO working papers usually represent research in progress. Such research may be conducted in the preparation of WTO Secretariat reports, studies or other material for WTO members. The papers are circulated for comment because the WTO considers critical review of professional research to be extremely important.


How to Design Trade Agreements in Services

Top Down or Bottom Up?

This paper deals with claims, recently raised in various circles, that structural faults in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) have prevented WTO Members from advancing services liberalization under the Agreement. The GATS is generally associated in this context with a bottom-up (positive-list) scheduling approach where the sectors on which trade commitments are undertaken are selected individually. This is claimed to be less efficient, in terms of liberalization effects, than alternative approaches under which everything is considered to be fully committed unless specifically excluded (top-down or negative listing). However, a closer look at services negotiations conducted in various settings, including the Doha-Round process, WTO accession cases and different types of regional trade agreements, suggests that such structural issues have limited, if any, impact on the results achieved. What ultimately matters are not negotiating or scheduling techniques, but the political impetus that the governments concerned are ready to generate.


Keywords: trade in services, liberalization commitments, GATS
JEL: F15: International Economics / Trade / Economic Integration; F13: International Economics / Trade / Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations; F53: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy / International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations
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