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date: 23 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This article explains that the negotiation of an international legal framework covering trade in services depends on the prior construction and dissemination of a shared body of knowledge among the participants to those negotiations. It gives an overview of that activity, covering the sectoral negotiations of the Uruguay Round as well as dispute settlement activity related to the general agreement on trade in services (GATS). The basic picture that emerges from this overview is one of a legal framework that is hampered by serious difficulties. This article further suggests that these difficulties exist partially because the existing knowledge about the global services economy is insufficiently developed. It gives three simple illustrations to substantiate and extend this argument. Finally, it offers one tentative view of the implications of this argument, both for World Trade Organization (WTO) scholars, as well as for government officials directly and indirectly involved in the WTO itself.

Keywords: international legal framework, sectoral negotiations, general agreement on trade in services, legal systems, dispute settlement activity

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