The liberalization of trade in services is particularly complex because services are regulated by governments in order to meet a wide range of national policy objectives such as health and safety. Such regulation has an impact on the degree of free service delivery. The governments of WTO member states are required to ensure that all laws, regulations, rules, procedures, decisions and national administrative measures relating to trade in services are managed in a “reasonable, objective and impartial” manner. Member State governments are also supposed to have courts, arbitration tribunals or administrative tribunals to which service providers can apply for a prompt review of administrative decisions and, where appropriate, appropriate remedies. In certain circumstances, the GATS allows the governments of WTO member states to restrict trade in services in areas where the member has made specific commitments. For example, when a member government is experiencing serious balance-of-payments difficulties (or is threatened by such difficulties), it may apply emergency guarantees to limit trade in services as long as these guarantees are not discriminatory, temporary and expire when the situation improves. Negotiations are underway within the GATS committee to develop an approved emergency safety mechanism for services. The GATS foresees negotiations that will begin within five years in order to achieve a higher level of liberalization of trade in services. This liberalization will aim to strengthen the commitments set out in the timetables and reduce the negative effects of the measures taken by governments. The agreement is based on the principle of the treatment of the Most Favoured Nation (MFN), according to which each Member State does not treat the enterprises of another Member State less favourably than its own or those of other countries. However, there are exceptions for certain service activities in a list of exceptions to the MFN requirement.
In fact, any government could impose restrictions on foreign companies` access to their markets. National Treatment (Article XVII) In areas where a member makes commitments in its timetable, each WTO member is required to give national treatment to service providers in other Member States. This means that the treatment should not be less favourable than the treatment given by the government to its own services and service providers. The GATS aims to ensure that the laws and regulations enforced by WTO member governments on trade in services are transparent and fair. Its main element of market opening is the timetable for specific commitments that each signatory has attached to the GATS as an integral part of the agreement. In these timetables, stemming from the Uruguay Round negotiations, the signatories determined to what extent they would grant full market access and national treatment in certain service sectors.