Jane Knight: GATS: The Way Forward After Hong Kong
International Higher Education, Number 43, Spring 2006
Jane Knight is adjunct professor at the Comparative, International, Development Education Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada. She is currently working at CENEVAL in Mexico City. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) negotiations during 2005 were basically in a logjam. The current round of negotiations, known as the Doha Round, was scheduled to end in January 2005, but there have been major delays and the end date is now set for October 31, 2006. It is important to realize that the Doha Round includes negotiations on three different aspects of international trade—two that deal with goods and one that focuses on services. The first is "agriculture," with which the most contentious issue is the reduction of domestic support to farmers—primarily by the European Union and the United States. The second is "non-agriculture market access" regarding which the reduction of tariffs is the key stumbling block, and the third is trade in services as enshrined in GATS. The first two issues created the paralysis, but the logjam has been loosened by agreements at the December 2005 WTO meeting of trade ministers in Hong Kong. Some of the focus may now return to negotiations in the 12 service sectors of GATS, and the pressure will be strong to increase the breadth and depth of commitments. To date, there have been a disappointingly low number of commitments in GATS. As a result, WTO-member representatives in Geneva have made renewed efforts to develop new means of encouraging countries to improve their offers. These new strategies are the focus of this discussion.