Chapter 21: The WTO and its GATS
Scott Sinclair Introduction The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) has been described as ‘perhaps the most important single development in the multilateral trading system since the GATT itself came into effect in 1948’.1 Despite its importance, the GATS was hardly known when the Uruguay Round of international trade negotiations concluded in 1994. It has only recently begun to attract deserved public scrutiny. This broadly worded treaty to enhance the rights of international commercial service providers has potentially far-reaching public policy impacts that merit serious attention and debate. From the GATT to the WTO The GATS came into being when the World Trade Organization (WTO) was created on 1 January 1995, after eight years of complex and difcult negotiations. The WTO Agreements subsumed and ranged far beyond the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which had regulated international trade since 1948. While the GATT system had gradually been amended and elaborated throughout the post-war period, the advent of the WTO suddenly and profoundly transformed the multilateral trading regime in several fundamental respects. Some of the most important of these fundamental changes include the following: While the GATT was simply an international agreement among ‘contracting parties’, the WTO is a fully-edged multilateral institution with ‘member governments’. It now takes a place alongside the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other elite international economic institutions. ● While GATT rules primarily covered tariffs and trade in goods, the WTO rules cover not only trade in goods, but also agriculture, standards-setting, intellectual...
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