Chapter

Trade in Health Services and the GATS

Richard Smith, Chantal Blouin, Nick Drager and David P. Fidler

in A Handbook of International Trade in Services

Published in print November 2007 | ISBN: 9780199235216
Published online January 2008 | e-ISBN: 9780191715624 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199235216.003.0011
 Trade in Health Services and the GATS

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Services of many kinds play important roles in the protection of public health and the delivery of health care to individuals. The GATS affects health-related services in many ways for health policymakers. In addition, the GATS establishes a process designed to liberalize progressively trade in services, and health policymakers must be prepared to participate in this process to ensure that such liberalization unfolds in a way sensitive to the needs of national governments. Any liberalization should aim to produce better quality, affordable, and effective health-related services. It should also ensure the necessary policy and regulatory space that governments require to promote and protect health needs. The GATS creates health opportunities and challenges, especially for developing countries. Countries are encouraged to embed the following health-policy principles: liberalized trade in health-related services should lead to an optimal balance between preventive and curative services; involvement of both private industry and civil society is important to promote participatory health policy towards achieving national goals; it is necessary to improve access and affordability of health-related services; developing countries, especially least-developed countries, deserve special consideration in liberalizing trade in health-related services. Health status as a human right should inform proposals to liberalize trade in health-related services. In an addendum to this chapter, it is noted that the GATS is unlikely to have a direct effect on the health of poor people because the health services they receive are not the ones being liberalized. But the GATS could have an indirect, beneficial effect if it helps countries break out of the trap of capture of the health budget by the rich and the health-service providers, releasing resources for improving the health of the poor.

Keywords: GATS; public health; health-related services; health-policy principles; preventive services; curative services; health policy

Chapter.  9185 words. 

Subjects: Economic Development and Growth

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