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The GATS 2000 Negotiations. By Julian Arkell
Oct 2, 2001

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  • Although the WTO is not directly part of the global financial structure, it provides a stabilising influence for the essential macro-regulatory regimes of its Members, that form the precondition for attracting productive long-term investment in the services infrastructure. On its entry into force the GATS was heralded by the then WTO Director General as the first global multilateral agreement on investment, since it covers not just cross-border trade but also the setting up of a ‘commercial presence’, and every possible means of supplying a service within the market.

    The GATS is significant because it involves nearly all countries in the world in the debate on the benefits of liberalising international trade and investment in services in accordance with the rule of international law. It provides a legal framework for the first time at the multilateral level for major aspects of investment needed to create and maintain subsidiaries abroad - of which UNCTAD estimates there are about 450,000.

    By locking in regulatory conditions for the commercial presence of these foreign affiliates it provides the legal predictability and stability for the long-term planning necessary for major investment projects, the returns from which are won over a long time scale.

    The GATS disciplines recognise that governments retain their sovereign right to pursue their own regulatory objectives and create new laws: they are not forced to deregulate or to privatise. They can set the desired level of protection for health and the environment, and the public services they provide are fully and unconditionally exempt from the scope of the GATS. Many governments indeed see the benefits of good governance that follows principles such as non-discrimination, transparency, the setting up of least-trade restrictive and pro-competitive laws and independent regulators, all of which are recognised and encouraged by the GATS.

    Many developing countries have found that by making undertakings under the GATS, the credibility of their legal reforms and regulatory structure has improved and their connection to the integrated global economy has produced positive results. It enables them to attain faster economic growth on which their social aims crucially depend for resources - the active pull up of self-provision through employment, rather than the discredited passive trickle down of wealth.

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    Comments [Add Comment]

    international standards
    posted by gtw@gtwassociates.com on 2/8/2002 at 3:50:18 PM

    "w/r to observation on p6 about role of international standards to GATS, I begin to see movement within sophisticated players in the international standards bodies to promote relevant standards for services. see http://www.gtwassociates.com/alerts/servicesproject.html"

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