GATS is the General Agreement on Trade in Services. It is an
international treaty established in 1995 that regulates the trade in services between
countries. GATS is part of a movement by governments to
liberalize trade and remove barriers which stop the flow of trade in services
across national borders.
GATS was created through the Uruguay Round of Negotitations that also
established the World Trade Organization (WTO) which is the administrative
body for international trade agreements. As
of February 2003, there were 145 member governments in the WTO. The list of
members continues to grow as membership provides countries with increased opportunities
to pursue trade agreements. The WTO
administers the GATS agreement and can enforce its rulings in trade disputes by
setting fines and issuing directions with with governments must comply . Because
of the WTO's power, GATS was the first legally enforceable international
trade treaty in the world.
GATS is not a finished agreement. Although parts of GATS have completed negotiations
and are binding to all WTO members, other parts are still being negotiated. The
parts currently being discussed include commitments to specific areas of trade
that are negotiated between
members and are not universally applied to all members. In fact,
rounds of negotiations to expand trade in services are and will be ongoing. The
current round is due to be completed on January 1, 2005.