General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS)

The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is the first multilateral agreement covering trade in services. It was negotiated during the last round of multilateral trade negotiations, called the Uruguay Round, and came into force in 1995. The GATS provides a framework of rules governing services trade, establishes a mechanism for countries to make commitments to liberalize trade in services and provides a mechanism for resolving disputes between countries.

About the GATS

Similar in principle to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which deals with trade in goods, the GATS has two primary objectives: first, to ensure that all signatories are treated equitably when accessing foreign markets; and second, to promote progressive liberalization of trade in services (over time, eliminating trade barriers to enable further participation in one another's markets).

Market Access Phase of Negotiations

The November 2001 Ministerial Conference in Doha set in motion the market access phase of the GATS negotiations and mandated that “participants shall submit initial requests for specific commitments by June 30, 2002 and initial offers by March 31, 2003.” In view of these deadlines, Canada and other WTO Members have submitted initial requests in 2002 and submitted initial offers at the end of March 2003. The documents in this section provide an overview of Canada’s offers under the market access phase.

Canada’s GATS Contact Point

Canada’s online GATS contact point provides an avenue through which developing country service suppliers can obtain this information quickly and accurately.