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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.

English

Poison in the Wine?

Tracing GATS-Minus Commitments in Regional Trade Agreements

Commitments in regional trade agreements (RTAs) that fall short of the same countries' obligations under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) are a relatively frequent phenomenon. However, they have gone widely unnoticed in the literature to date and drawn very little attention in relevant WTO fora either. Nevertheless, 'minus commitments' are potentially poisonous and, for various reasons, would deserve close attention. Given the broad definitional scope of the GATS, extending inter alia to commercial presence, such commitments may impinge upon the rights of third-country investors in the RTA economies. Their existence casts doubts on the legal status of the respective agreements under the GATS and can have severe implications for the trading system overall. If not complemented by comprehensive Most-favoured-Nation clauses, the RTAs concerned are disconnected from the WTO and virtually impossible to multilateralize. Based on a review of some 80,000 commitments in 66 agreements, this study seeks to develop a reasonably comprehensive picture of the frequency of 'minus commitments' and their dosage in terms of sectors, measures and modes of supply. It also discusses potential remedies from a WTO perspective.

English

Keywords: Regionalism, GATS, Trade in Services
JEL: F13: International Economics / Trade / Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations; F15: International Economics / Trade / Economic Integration; L80: Industrial Organization / Industry Studies: Services / Industry Studies: Services: General; K33: Law and Economics / Other Substantive Areas of Law / International Law
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