Multilateralising Regionalism: How Preferential Are Services Commitments in Regional Trade Agreements?
This report examines services schedules of commitments in 56 regional trade agreements (RTAs) where an OECD country is a party. The preferential content of RTAs is assessed through an analysis of market access and national treatment commitments at the level of the 155 sub-sectors of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) Sectoral Classification List. Partial commitments are broken down according to nine categories of non-conforming measures. The report confirms that on average RTAs in services go beyond GATS with commitments in about 72% of sub-sectors, among which 42% correspond to preferential bindings (GATS-plus commitments). In addition, the report provides an overview of rules of origin for services providers and MFN clauses in services chapters in order to see whether commitments granted might be extended to non-parties to minimise discrimination among foreign services suppliers. Despite the heterogeneity found in schedules of commitments, there is a certain degree of commonality in new and improved commitments that suggests that multilateralising RTAs is achievable. The multilateralisation of services commitments would however imply a more symmetric and systematic liberalisation than what is seen in the schedules of RTAs. In the end, this is a matter of political will and negotiations.
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