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Lim, Aik Hoe
Apaza, Pamela
Horj, Alin
Year of Publication: 
Series/Report no.: 
ADBI Working Paper 697
While trade can greatly contribute to providing more education opportunities in the development world, its potential has not been fully exploited so far. This paper examines how international trade can help increase supply of and investment in higher education, thereby enhancing access and quality in support of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). First, the paper examines the changing dynamics in the higher education sector and how these have spurred reforms in education systems and novel ways of delivering educational services. These factors, which include demand-side factors, reforms in government funding, technological developments, and the rise of global value chains (GVCs), have prompted mixed policies which increasingly regard foreign providers as prospective partners. Whereas these trends point toward the internationalization of education services, the role of trade agreements and their potential contribution to the SDGs have barely been explored. Therefore, the second part of the paper examines how trade agreements can help facilitate trade in education services and the flexibility they provide for attaining social policy objectives. International trade agreements can help attract foreign providers and foreign direct investment (FDI) in education by reducing barriers to entry, levelling the playing field among providers, and providing a predictable and transparent regulatory environment. At the same time, the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) can support and complement the development of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks to accompany market opening and promote the SDG goals of ensuring inclusive and quality education. Overall, a balance will need to be struck between opening trade in education and addressing regulatory challenges with a view to fostering coherence among policy objectives in support of the SDGs.
Industry and trade
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Document Type: 
Working Paper

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