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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The ongoing liberalization process

As agreed in Article XIX, a new round of negotiations on trade in services was launched in January 2000. The purpose of the new round is to achieve ‘progressively higher levels of liberalization .… with a view to promoting the interests of all participants on a mutually advantageous basis and to securing an overall balance of rights and obligations’ (Article XIX). Although the Seattle Ministerial Conference in late November 1999 was not successful in launching a complete new round (including goods), the mandate to negotiate on services was never questioned. It was clear that services trade issues have moved from being the most contentious of the Uruguay Round to being perhaps the least controversial within WTO.

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