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.


National Treatment in the GATS

Corner-Stone or Pandora's Box?

This paper is concerned with three problems in the interpretation of the national treatment obligation in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). First, the precise domain of Article XVII on national treatment has not been clearly delineated, particularly in relation to Article XVI dealing with market access. Secondly, there is a difference between the text of Article XVII and the structure of the schedules of commitments, which makes it difficult to interpret the scope of the national treatment obligation even for identical services supplied through different modes. The final, and most complex, problem arises in establishing the definition of "like" services and "like" service suppliers. Uncertainty about the precise meaning of the national treatment obligation may undermine the key GATS objective of creating a secure, predictable trading environment. Moreover, the extent of liberalization implied by the commitments under GATS depends on the precise choice of interpretation.


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