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Troubled Relationships under the GATS: Tensions between Market Access (Article XVI), National Treatment (Article XVII), and Domestic Regulation (Article VI)

"The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was adopted in order to establish meaningful liberalization rules, while preserving the right of Members to regulate. To that end, three provisions form the centerpiece of liberalization: market access (Article XVI GATS), national treatment (Article XVII GATS), and domestic regulation (Article VI GATS). Although these provisions contain different obligations, in certain conditions they can overlap. How this issue is resolved could undermine the delicate balance between liberalization and the right to regulate. As the GATS provides no guidance, the task of determining the applicable rules has been delegated to the World Trade Organization (WTO) adjudicating bodies. This paper examines how the three provisions have been interpreted, and analyzes the most applicable way to address the diversity of barriers to trade in services."

The Legal Nature of WTO Obligations and the Consequences of their Violation

The obligations deriving from participation in the World Trade Organization are never inherently indivisible or erga omnes in the sense elaborated by the International Court of Justice in the field of human rights. As a rule, remedies for violations of WTO obligations remain available only to the Member(s) whose international trade interests have been affected, in actual or potential terms. Nonetheless, contracting parties have decided to extend to a limited number of WTO obligations the legal regime of indivisible obligation and to consider immaterial for the purpose of resorting to the dispute settlement system the effects of their violations. WTO obligations, therefore, are not a monolithic bloc. They may be divided into two categories which are governed by different rules as far as legal standing and counter-measures are concerned. Depending on whether the obligation allegedly breached belongs to one or the other category, the nullification or impairment of benefits is presumed – but can be challenged – under Article 3(8) of the DSU or is entirely irrelevant. Furthermore, countermeasures are normally proportionate or equivalent to the nullification or impairment of the benefits of the complainant. In the case of WTO obligations treated as indivisible obligations, however, the effects of the violation are immaterial and the trade interests of the complainant may well be unaffected. As a result, counter-measures are to be permitted to the extent that they will effectively ensure compliance. Special problems may finally arise in the case of multiple applicants, especially when the countermeasures are authorized at different times.

Public services and the GATS, WTO Staff Working Paper, No. ERSD-2005-03, World Trade Organization (WTO), Geneva

Adlung, Rolf (2005) Adlung is a WTO employee. The EU's social safety net is under attack. Partly due to neoliberal construction via FTAs of a new corporate "right of establishment" that nullifies rights to healthcare and education that have never been created in laws as we would hope. Also WTO rules allegedly against "discrimination" ironically are a tool that's being used to dismantle policies and laws against discrimination in countries like the US.