The Preferential Liberalization of Trade in Services

The Preferential Liberalization of Trade in Services

Comparative Regionalism

Edited by Pierre Sauvé and Anirudh Shingal

The book’s core focus is on comparative scholarship, directing attention to the substantive features of services PTAs around the globe and exploring the iterative nature of rule-making and market opening in a still nascent field of trade diplomacy. It advances a number of ideas on how to multilateralize PTA advances in services and takes stock of the likely impact on the WTO system of ongoing attempts at crafting a plurilateral agreement on trade in services.

Introduction and overview

Pierre Sauvé and Anirudh Shingal

Subjects: law - academic, international economic law, trade law


One of the striking features of trade diplomacy over the past two decades has been the seemingly unstoppable march of preferential trade liberalization and rule-making. Such a trend routinely extends to trade in services. Of the 81 preferential trade agreements (PTAs) in force before 2000, 70 (representing 86.4% of the total) featured provisions dealing exclusively with trade in goods. During the ensuing decade, more than a third of PTAs that have been notified to the World Trade Organization (WTO) and remain in force include provisions on services. To date, 118 PTAs covering services have been notified to the WTO. Such a trend signals both the heightened importance of services trade in general and the fact that, since the advent of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) at the end of the Uruguay Round, services trade forms a central part of modern trade craft. If all trade agreements can be described as "incomplete contracts", then market opening and rule-making in the services field is undoubtedly the most incomplete of all areas subject to multilateral governance. Indeed, close to two decades after the completion of the Uruguay Round, trade diplomats are still struggling with a complex set of unfinished issues.