General Agreement on Trade in Services and its implications for public health

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Due to the economic importance of the service sector and its trade potential, in 1995 the World Trade Organization (WTO) launched the General Agreement on Trade in Services with the objective of liberalizing trade in services worldwide and of establishing rules and disciplines to regulate it. Until now, the Agreement has produced few case laws on its rules and some of them are in the process of being developed, which makes the Agreement ambiguous and hampers accurate forecasting of its implications. Nevertheless, some analysts consider that certain characteristics and rules represent a threat to the funding mechanisms of public services and to the sovereignty of governments to generate their own rules. Moreover, the Agreement would lead to irreversible formalization of commitments, without the possibility of returning to previous conditions in the case of failure of the market and/or private participation. In addition, the Agreement acts against exclusive monopolies and providers and to a certain extent this will affect subsidies to local providers. The ability of the European Communities Court of Justice to enforce the implementation of competitive measures in public services has produced uncertainty because of the implications for health services. The Spanish Agreement with the WTO contains many questions that remain open, representing an opportunity for the participation of the health sector in the next negotiation rounds.




Umaña-Peña, R., & Alvarez-Dardet, C. (2005). General Agreement on Trade in Services and its implications for public health. Gaceta Sanitaria / S.E.S.P.A.S, 19(6), 475–480.

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