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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Implications for developing and transition economies

At the beginning of the Uruguay Round, many assumed that trade in services was a post-industrial issue. As discussions progressed, though, Members began to realize that most economies obtain the largest part of their gross domestic product from services industries. Re-examination of economic development showed that, of the countries commonly looked to as economic leaders, neither the United States nor Japan has ever been primarily a manufacturing economy. Both countries went from basically agricultural economies to mainly services economies at the beginning of this century. Some developing and transition economies continue to believe that protecting the emerging domestic services industries is critical to development. Actual experience has shown that, because services enterprises are both suppliers and users of services, they typically benefit overall from rapid liberalization initiatives and are constrained by any service inefficiencies that result from protection.

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