The EU Under GATS and RTAs
Chapter 2: Structure of GATS and the selected EU RTAs
To understand GATS, and specifically its impact on regulatory autonomy, one must understand its flexible structure. The flexibility is likely due to the novelty of regulating trade in services at the time of GATS’ conclusion and to the difficulties with predicting its implications. The flexibility allowed the drafters to construct a potentially very powerful agreement, which also contained room for moulding obligations which were acceptable to all parties. In other words, GATS has the inherent potential to be encompassing and stringent, but it does not need to be so in practice. The structural flexibility of GATS is evident in two ways: first, in the structure of its obligations, and second, in the approach to scheduling specific commitments. This section further addresses how the EU made use of the flexibilities of GATS. GATS contains non-discrimination obligations, market access sensu lato obligations, obligations based on recognition-based regimes and transparency obligations. Concerning their applicability, the obligations can be divided into the following categories: a. Unconditional general obligations apply to any measure affecting trade in any service covered by GATS. The most important of these obligations is the Most-Favoured-Nation (MFN) obligation. In line with the flexible nature of GATS, the MFN obligation is limited by a list of individual exemptions, drawn up by each Member at the conclusion of GATS. b. Conditional obligations apply only to measures affecting trade in services in sectors for which specific commitments have been scheduled by the Member.
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