Research Handbooks on the WTO series
Edited by Geert Van Calster and Denise Prévost
Chapter 12: GATS and public health care: reflecting on an uneasy relationship
The foremost objective of the World Trade Organization (WTO) is to liberalize trade through the application of the non-discrimination principle and the implementation of the results of typically multi-year negotiations on a request-and-offer basis. The underlying economic theory of this basically negative integration contract suggests that positive welfare effects for the countries liberalising their trade regime will be generated in the long run, even if such liberalisation occurs unilaterally. However, a multilateral accord allows countries to solve various problems, most notably terms-of-trade externalities. Most of the economic theories justifying trade liberalisation also apply to services. Once considered as non-tradable, services nowadays dominate economic activity in virtually all countries of the world irrespective of their level of development. Thus, market access in foreign services markets becomes quintessential for the expansion strategy of every export-oriented company. This applies with equal force to companies active in the production of goods, as services can be essential inputs for various goods.
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