Most existing commitments are confined to guaranteeing the levels of access that existed in the mid-1990s, when the Agreement entered into force, in a limited number of sectors. The only significant exceptions are the accession schedules of recent WTO Members and the negotiating results in two sectors (financial services and, in particular, basic telecommunications) that were achieved after the Uruguay Round. The offers tabled so far in the ongoing Round would not add a lot of substance either. Apparently, negotiators are ‘caught between a rock and a hard place’. For one thing, the traditional mercantilist paradigm, relying on reciprocal exchanges of concessions, seems to be provide less momentum than in the goods area. For another, there are additional - technical, economic and political - frictions that tend to render services negotiations more complicated, time-consuming and resource-intensive. The novelty of the Agreement adds an additional element of legal uncertainty from a negotiator’s perspective. This paper discusses various options that might help to overcome the ensuing reticence to engage. Few appear within reach at present, however. The bare minimum that would need to be achieved is to revive work on scheduling and classification issues with a view to putting both existing commitments and new offers on a safer footing, and to improve compliance with long-existing information/notification obligations.
GATS trade in services liberalization policy reform