The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) is a World Trade Organization (WTO) treaty that came into force in January 1995 following the Uruguay Round negotiations. The treaty was created to extend the multilateral trading system to the services sector, just as the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) provides such a system for trade in goods. The rules on market access and national treatment are not general requirements, but specific obligations contained in the calendars attached to the GATS and are an integral part of the agreement. These schedules define the services and services for which market access is provided and define the conditions for that access. After consolidation, these obligations can only be amended or withdrawn after negotiating compensation with the country concerned. Like the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), which deals with trade in goods, the GATS has two main objectives: first, to ensure that all signatories are treated fairly in terms of access to foreign markets; and second, the promotion of a gradual liberalisation of trade in services (over time, removal of trade barriers, in order to allow greater participation in the markets of the other). However, timetables have been only a first step in the complex process of liberalizing trade in services, and many countries continue to establish restrictions and conditions for both market access and national treatment. These restrictions are set in each country`s calendar. The continuation of GATS services negotiations is aimed at removing these restrictions and conditions.
Exceptions may be granted in the form of Article II exceptions. Members could apply for such exemptions before the agreement came into force. New derogations may only be granted to new members at the time of accession or, in the case of current members, by a derogation under Article IX:3 of the WTO agreement. All exceptions are subject to review; they should not, in principle, last more than 10 years. In addition, the GATS allows groups of members to enter into economic integration agreements or to mutually recognize regulatory standards, certificates and others when certain conditions are met. Bilateral agreements between governments on recognition of qualifications must be open to other members who wish to join. In addition, each member must ensure that monopolies and exclusive service providers do not abuse their position. Similarly, members should discuss ways to eliminate business practices that may limit competition. On 15 April 1994, at the ministerial meeting in Marrakech, ministers from more than 100 countries signed the final act of Uruguay`s multilateral trade round.