Balancing Regulatory Autonomy with Liberalisation of Trade in Services: An Analytical Assessment of Australia's Obligations under Preferential Trade Agreements
31 Pages Posted: 26 Sep 2017
Date Written: September 23, 2017
Trade in services can take many forms (or ‘modes’), such as cross-border delivery, or delivery by a commercial presence in a foreign country. Unlike tariffs or quantitative restrictions on goods, which are imposed at the border, barriers to trade in services are more commonly found ‘behind the border’, through domestic regulation of services industries. This article reviews Australia’s obligations to liberalise trade in services under its preferential trade agreements, against the background of its obligations under the World Trade Organization’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). Australia has an evident desire to liberalise trade in services as well as sensibilities about domestic regulatory autonomy in the services context. The tension between these different interests is reflected in the ongoing development of Australia’s treaty practice in this field. The article summarises core obligations and exceptions under Australia’s treaties, highlighting the need for progressive liberalisation and the possibility and desirability of reducing some exceptions over time. The article distinguishes ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ list obligations and Australia’s approach thereto, while also raising questions as to the consistency of Australia’s preferential trade agreements with the GATS, particularly as regards ‘GATS-minus’ provisions.
Keywords: Australia, GATS, International Economic Law, International Investment Law, International Trade Law, Liberalisation, Regionalism, Services, WTO
JEL Classification: K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation