Ranging from communications to transport, finance, education, tourism and environmental services, the services sector has become the backbone of the global economy and the most dynamic component of international trade. Recent technological advances have made it easier to supply services across borders, thereby opening new opportunities for national economies and individuals. While increasingly traded in their own right, services also serve as crucial inputs into the production of goods. In value-added terms, services account for about 50% of world trade.
Services trade policies are an important determinant of foreign direct investment, participation in global value chains, productivity and exports of manufactured products. Policies in relation to services trade also contribute to a wide range of national objectives, including the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals.
The creation of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) was one of the landmark achievements of the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations.
The GATS covers all services, with few exceptions.
- Services sectoral classification list
- UN Provisional Central Products Classification
In light of the current unavailability of the UN Provisional Central Product Classification from the website of the United Nations Statistics Division, a PDF version has been posted on this website.
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Introduction to services trade and the GATS
objectives, coverage and disciplines
An in-depth look, in question-and-answer form.
Introduction to the GATS (PDF)
Interactive course: General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)
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Consult findings of the WTO Appellate Body and dispute settlement panels on the GATS, as well as related decisions and other significant actions taken by relevant WTO bodies in the Analytical Index — Guide to WTO Law and Practice.
Members' schedules of specific commitments and lists of MFN exemptions
- Introduction, with links to commitments and exemptions
- I-TIP Services Database
The database contains the services schedules of commitments for WTO members.
- How to read a schedule
- The protocols
Since the Uruguay Round, agreement was reached on negotiations in specific sectors: telecommunications, financial services and movement of natural persons. These additional agreements are known as “protocols".
The GATS provides for “special treatment” for least-developed countries (LDCs). This has been pursued through, among other things, a waiver to allow preferential treatment for LDC exporters of services.back to top
Work in the WTO
Services negotiations : WTO members continue discussions on advancing negotiations to achieve a progressively higher level of liberalization, as mandated in Article XIX of the GATS. Members are also negotiating on domestic regulation in services.
Operation of the GATS: The Council for Trade in Services and its subsidiary bodies - including the Committee on Trade in Financial Services and the Committee on Specific Commitments - is responsible for facilitating the operation of the GATS.back to top
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Data on services trade
- Statistics on trade in commercial services
- WTO Data portal
- Trade in Value Added and Global Value Chains (GVCs)
- Trade in Services data by mode of supply (TISMOS)
- Dataset of services commitments in regional trade agreements
Contact and enquiry points
Contact points are intended to facilitate the access of developing country members' service suppliers to information, and enquiry points to provide information to other WTO members.
The Services Trade Barometer is issued twice a year as a companion to the Goods Trade Barometer.
This integrated database — a joint initiative of the WTO and the World Bank — consists of information on members' commitments and MFN exemptions under the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), services commitments in regional trade agreements, applied measures affecting access to and operations in economies' services markets, and relevant services statistics.
- Simply Services Speaker Series: BHealth-related services: Challenges for trade policy and future possibilities (24 july 2020)
- Simply Services Speaker Series: Building Back Better in Tourism (23 June 2020)
- MIKTA Workshop on Regulatory Frameworks to Facilitate Trade in Services (14 November 2019)
- Dedicated session of the Council for Trade in Services – Review of the operation of preferences notified under the LDC services waiver (29 October 2019)
- Advanced course on trade in services concludes at WTO (20 September 2019)
- Simply Services Speaker Series: Trade in legal services (20 May 2019)
- CTS Thematic Seminar: "Mode 4 at Work" (10 October 2018)
- Advanced Course on Trade in Services (17 September 2018)
- International Trade Centre — Services trade promotion for developing countries.