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General Agreement on Trade in Services: 
A Resource for Librarians


What is GATS?

History of GATS

Present of GATS

GATS &  Gov't Services

WTO &  Gov't Services

Application of Regulations

Libraries as a Cultural Industry

Protecting Culture

Concerns for Libraries


Works Cited


History of GATS

To understand the concern about the GATS, it is necessary to have some understanding of its context in world trade.

Before GATS came into being, there was the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT). GATT was both an international trade treaty and an organization of 23 countries founded in 1948. The GATT worked to remove or reduce barriers from international trade in goods, which included customs duties, subsidies and import bans. It also acted as a forum for trade issues and while the organization had the ability to render judgments in trade disputes, it did not have the power to enforce those decisions. A clause in the agreement stated that the country that lost the judgment also had to agree to the sanction prescribed by the judgment. This clause effectively prevented any international sanctions to a country that bargained in bad faith or that later pulled out of a negotiated agreement. The result was that deals in trade between countries were not meaningful or reliable.

In 1986, the GATT began the Uruguay Round Negotiations that lasted until 1994. The result of these negotiations was the formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995. The most significant change to international trade was that the WTO was granted the power to enforce trade treaties. Members agreed that trade disputes would be heard before a WTO panel and its decisions would be binding. The WTO appoints independent experts who base their judgments on "interpretations of the agreements and individual countries’ commitments" (WTO, The WTO, 4).

The other major result of the Uruguay Round Negotiations was the implementation of a new agreement called the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) in 1995. This agreement, like GATT before it, is focused on reducing barriers to international trade, but in this treaty the focus is on the trade of services.

Site created by Sandra Anderson in April, 2003 as part of
LIS 583 - Globalization, Diversity and Information, a course offered at the
School of Library and Information Studies at the University of Alberta.
Please send all feedback about this site to Sandra Anderson