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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

Services Liberalization from a WTO/GATS Perspective: In Search of Volunteers

There has been virtually no liberalization under the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) to date. Most existing commitments are confined to guaranteeing the levels of access that existed in the mid-1990s, when the Agreement entered into force, in a limited number of sectors. The only significant exceptions are the accession schedules of recent WTO Members and the negotiating results in two sectors (financial services and, in particular, basic telecommunications) that were achieved after the Uruguay Round. The offers tabled so far in the ongoing Round would not add a lot of substance either. Apparently, negotiators are 'caught between a rock and a hard place'. For one thing, the traditional mercantilist paradigm, relying on reciprocal exchanges of concessions, seems to be provide less momentum than in the goods area. For another, there are additional - technical, economic and political - frictions that tend to render services negotiations more complicated, timeconsuming and resource-intensive. The novelty of the Agreement adds an additional element of legal uncertainty from a negotiator's perspective. This paper discusses various options that might help to overcome the ensuing reticence to engage. Few appear within reach at present, however. The bare minimum that would need to be achieved is to revive work on scheduling and classification issues with a view to putting both existing commitments and new offers on a safer footing, and to improve compliance with long-existing information/notification obligations.

English

Keywords: trade in services, GATS, policy reform, liberalization
JEL: F53: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy / International Agreements and Observance; International Organizations; F13: International Economics / Trade / Trade Policy; International Trade Organizations; F15: International Economics / Trade / Economic Integration; F59: International Economics / International Relations, National Security, and International Political Economy / International Relations and International Political Economy: Other
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