Business Guide to the General Agreement on Trade in Services

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The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is an historical agreement covering a wide range of international service transactions. This guide presents the key features of the multilateral system of trade rules covering services. It also identifies the main opportunities and challenges that may be encountered at the practical business level in the implementation of GATS rules and market access commitments.

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About the General Agreement on Trade in Services

Until 1995, no multilateral agree ment ex isted on rules for the trade in serv ices. This was largely due to a lack of knowledge about the services trade itself. Economists generally viewed services as not tradeable or, even worse, as non-productive economic activities and therefore un wor thy of pol icy fo cus. Aca demic stud ies had concentrated on employment pat terns in services or on serv ices as sup ports to manu fac tur ing – ig nor ing the di rect con tri bu tions serv ices in dus tries made to do mes tic pro duc tion and for eign ex change earn ings. Gov ern ment ex port de vel op ment plan ning tended to target goods, and so government agen cies were largely unfamiliar with the activities of their own services ex port ers. As na tional sta tis ti cal agen cies did not col lect detailed trade statistics on services, few ac curate and com pre hen sive data sets ex isted.

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