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The Scope of GATS and of Its Obligations by Bregt Natens, Jan Wouters

Bregt Natens, Jan Wouters - KU Leuven - Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies Date Written: August 1, 2013 Abstract The GATS preamble already highlights the inevitable conflict between on the one hand achieving progressively higher levels of liberalization of trade in services in order to expand trade in services and promote growth, and on the other hand the right to introduce new regulation to meet national policy objectives. Hence, it was clear from the outset that the balance between trade liberalisation and domestic regulatory autonomy would be key in interpreting the constructively ambiguous GATS. The outcome of this exercise depends on three factors: the interpretation of (i) GATS’ overarching objectives, (ii) of the general scope of GATS and of the obligations arising from it (and the exceptions to them) and (iii) of the inherent individual flexibility of GATS. Whilst also touching on the first, this contribution mainly focuses on the second factor by addressing the scope of GATS, of its unconditional obligations, of obligations applying to sectors for which specific commitments have been scheduled and of obligations in GATS Annexes. Additionally, it provides an overview of the structure of GATS obligations. The third factor is mainly addressed throughout textboxes which provide an illustrative insight into how the European Union has used the inherent GATS flexibility to shape its obligations. Keywords: WTO, World Trade Organization, GATS, General Agreement on Trade in Services, services, scope, obligations, governmental authority exception

"Pre-Established" (status) and Financial Services Regulation in the GATS agreement

The status of whether a domestic law or regulation pre-existed the GATS agreement is an important status under WTO law. If an instrument or measure pre-existed the GATS it has far more lattitude to break GATS rules. This is why if we wait much longer, it may be very expensive, (based on the value of the lost business) perhaps nearly impossibly so, to establish a new "Medicare For All" (which does break GATS rules in a number of ways, for example, see Skala's paper) unless we immediately start the process of exiting and seeking carve outs from the GATS as far as this service sector. We should also start consulting experts so we can do that without destroying Medicare or Social Security's protection from GATS.

TISA Troubles

This study, co-published with the Rosa Luxemburg Foundation, examines the adverse impacts on public services and public interest regulation of the little-known Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), quietly being negotiated in Geneva by a group of 23 governments, including Canada. Senior CCPA trade researcher Scott Sinclair argues that under the guise of expanding international trade in services, TiSA will make it much harder for governments to regulate vital services such as energy, water, banking, transport and online services. The agreement is also designed to pry open public services to commercial involvement. While this agenda may suit the commercial interests of the transnational corporations behind the secretive TiSA negotiations, it will not serve the broader public interest.

OECD Services Trade Restrictiveness Index - Regulatory database

This is the index hosted by the OECD (one of several indices of trade restrictiveness) that countries can use to consult if their services regulations comply with "Minimal Trade Restrictiveness" rules that limit what a country can regulate. For example, WTO rules require that measures (basically all national laws, regulations or policies, at the federal, state or local level ) be 'not more burdensome (on corporations) than necessary to ensure the quality of the service'.

The General Agreement On Trade In Services: Implications For Health Policymakers (Health Affairs)

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), created under the auspices of the World Trade Organization, aims to regulate measures affecting international trade in services—including health services such as health insurance, hospital services, telemedicine, and acquisition of medical treatment abroad. The agreement has been the subject of great controversy, for it may affect the freedom with which countries can change the shape of their domestic health care systems. We explain the rationale behind the agreement and discuss its scope. We also address the major controversies surrounding the GATS and their implications for the U.S. health care system