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date: 08 December 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This article explores trade in services. In contrast to non-agricultural market access and agriculture, for example, services is a relatively new area for the multilateral trading system, and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a young and incomplete agreement. Moreover, market access offers in the Doha Round compare poorly against the autonomous moves towards trade liberalization taken on by members. The article explores the reasons for this, and further analyses why, notwithstanding the poor substance of offers under GATS, a lot has happened in terms of liberalization at the ground level. In doing so, it also takes into account the implications of services liberalization as part of bilateral investment treaties and preferential trade agreements (PTAs). While services PTAs might be less trade distorting than their counterparts in merchandise trade, they generate several important costs in the form of their ‘GATS-minus’ commitments, as well as the deflection of resources away from the multilateral process. The article also considers the consequences of the GATS for rule making in the World Trade Organization.

Keywords: trade in services, multilateral trading system, General Agreement, bilateral investment treaties, preferential trade agreements, trade liberalization, rule making

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