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WHAT IS GATS?

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is an international trade agreement that came into effect in 1995 and operates under the umbrella of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The aim of the GATS is to gradually remove all barriers to trade in services. The agreement covers services as diverse as banking, education, healthcare, rubbish collection, tourism or transport.

The idea is to open up these services to international competition, allowing the way for huge, for-profit, multinational firms.

"The GATS is not just something that exists between Governments. It is first and foremost an instrument for the benefit of business"

European Commission, 1999

Since February 2000, negotiations are underway in the WTO to expand and 'fine-tune' the GATS. These negotiations have aroused concern world-wide. A growing number of local governments, trade unions, NGOs, parliaments and developing country governments are criticising the GATS negotiations and call for a halt on the negotiations.

Their main points of critique:


WANT TO KNOW MORE?

Introductory texts on GATS

Recent critical papers on GATS

Everything else you always wanted to know about GATS, but...