Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO
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Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO

Edited by Geert Van Calster and Denise Prévost

This Handbook provides state-of-the-art analysis by leading authors on the links between the international trade regime and health and environment concerns – concerns that make up an increasing proportion of WTO dispute settlement. Research Handbook on Environment, Health and the WTO surveys fields as diverse as climate change mitigation, non-communicable diseases, nanotechnology and public health care. The volume brings to the fore the debates and complexities surrounding these issues and their implications for the international trading system.
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Chapter 12: GATS and public health care: reflecting on an uneasy relationship

Panagiotis Delimatsis


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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