Volume 48 (2014) / Issue 2
This article deals with claims, recently raised in various circles, that structural faults in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) have prevented WTO Members from advancing services liberalization under the Agreement. The GATS is generally associated in this context with a bottom-up (positive-list) scheduling approach where the sectors on which trade commitments are undertaken are selected individually. This is claimed to be less efficient, in terms of liberalization effects, than alternative approaches under which everything is considered to be fully committed unless specifically excluded (top-down or negative listing). However, a closer look at services negotiations conducted in various settings, including the Doha Round process, WTO accession cases and different types of Regional Trade Agreements (RTA), suggests that such structural issues have limited, if any, impact on the results achieved. What ultimately matters are not negotiating or scheduling techniques, but the political impetus that the governments concerned are ready to generate.
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