Theater of Cruelty

GATS – the vise on trade in services

A government that opens a service area for competition from abroad should feel confident that another government cannot overturn this decision after the next election. That is the purpose of GATS, the WTO Agreement on Trade in Services.


GATS covers all public measures, instruments and rules that "affect trade in services". It covers all service sectors and all ways of offering services, whether through the sale of services in another country, by consumers buying services in other countries, by investing in other countries or by people taking up work and providing services in a another country.

A country that opens up a service area for foreign competition gives foreign companies free access to sell these services domestically, to establish companies that offer these services, to bring with them the staff the company deems necessary – if no reservations are made for some of this when the country decides to open a service area for foreign competition.

No country can withdraw commitments given – unless one offers to open other service areas of the same value to other WTO countries for competition from abroad. This is what makes GATS as dramatic as an international agreement.

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