This chapter is structured around three questions. What advances have been made on services market opening? What have been the specific market access commitments of least-developed countries (LDCs)? And what is the progress made with domestic regulation disciplines? This chapter examines the extent to which the services-specific commitments and domestic regulatory disciplines of Article XII members differ from those undertaken by original WTO members at similar levels of development. Although no single indicator exists that can be used to make this comparison, given the textual nature of specific commitments, as opposed to the numerical properties of tariffs, several other possible parameters exist, which could be used alone or in combination to assess such departures. The evidence and patterns in Article XII members' services market access commitments and regulatory state-of-play and advances are examined. The trends and patterns in the depth and sectoral coverage of commitments are identified. The results from accession negotiations on the rules are reviewed with particular focus on how they compare to the envisaged disciplines on domestic regulation under the General Agreement on Trade in Services Article VI:4. Finally, the performance of Article XII LDC members in their WTO accession services negotiations is reviewed. Overall, the evidence indicates that Article XII members' services bindings go further than those of original WTO members.
What advances have been made on market opening commitments?
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) applies to a very wide range of measures and adopts a broad definition of trade in services. It covers four different ways through which services may be supplied internationally. The ‘trade barriers’ it disciplines often concern measures that governments have adopted ‘behind the border’.
As a counterweight to its wide scope, the GATS is a flexible agreement. It does not require that services trade be universally liberalised. Rather, it is built on the notion of ‘progressive liberalisation’. This means that members choose the degree of services market opening they are prepared to guarantee legally, and that they are meant to improve it progressively, over time, through successive rounds of negotiations. In practice, members select the sectors in which to undertake market opening commitments, the modes of supply through which they wish to liberalise trade and the overall extent of this liberalisation. Members' selections are registered in documents called ‘schedules of specific commitments'.