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General Agreement on Trade in Services and the health sector

B Ekbal

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2006.022


Until the World Trade Organization emerged in 1995, there was no multilateral agreement on services. Negotiations at the WTO led to the General Agreement on Trade in Services, a comprehensive agreement on the international trade in services. GATS explicitly provides for successive rounds of negotiation with a view to achieving a progressively higher degrees of liberalisation. An increase in trade in health services offers a handful of developing countries a limited set of export opportunities, predominantly in attracting foreign consumers to their health facilities. These gains seem trivial when compared with the effects that the increased trade in health services could have on people’s right to health. Trade in health services risks exacerbating many of the problems which already plague health systems across the world. The damage may outweigh the benefits, particularly for those with little ability to pay more for publicly provided health care.

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