Regulatory Autonomy and International Trade in Services
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Regulatory Autonomy and International Trade in Services

The EU Under GATS and RTAs

Bregt Natens

This book considers how the interplay between multilateral and preferential liberalisation of trade in services increasingly raises concerns, both from the perspective of the beneficiaries of such liberalisation (whose rights are uncertain) and that of regulators (whose regulatory autonomy is constrained). The author shows how these concerns lead to vast underutilisation of, and strong prejudices against, the benefits of services liberalisation. The book meticulously analyses and compares the EU's obligations under the GATS and the services chapters of several RTAs to finally assess the merits of the raised concerns.
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Chapter 7: Transparency

Bregt Natens


The principle of transparency can be considered as a cornerstone of WTO law and is also central to the selected EU RTAs and their services chapters. Transparency in the internal legal regimes of Members is key to facilitating trade as it reduces transaction and information costs and improves efficiency. Transparency has even been called the ‘real jewel in the crown’ of the WTO (as opposed to dispute settlement). But, as explained below, transparency obligations rarely constrain regulatory autonomy. They are therefore mostly dealt with briefly in this book. According to a WTO Secretariat definition, in the WTO agreements, the principle of transparency is three-pronged. The prongs encompass the following requirements: (i) to make information on trade-related laws, regulations and policies publicly available; (ii) to notify (changes to) laws and regulations; and (iii) to ensure that laws and regulations are administered in a uniform, impartial and reasonable manner. The third prong is a form of due processthat is considered part of the principle of transparency here. GATS, the EU-C & P RTA, the EU-Georgia DCFTA and the EU-Singapore RTA contain many transparency requirements, of each of the three prongs of the principle of transparency. As noted, the obligations in the following overview may be considered burdensome, but – with one exception – cannot be said to constrain regulatory autonomy: a. Articles III:1–2 GATS, 288.1, 3 EU-C & P and 14.3.

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