The least developed countries are the subject of particular attention in the final act. This is reflected in the agreements in a number of provisions that are most favourable to this group, both in terms of rights and reduced mouth situations. In addition, the decision on measures for least developed countries provides for special assistance measures, including technical assistance “to develop, strengthen and diversify their production and export bases, including the promotion of services and trade, so that they can maximize the benefits of liberalised market access.” As part of its tasks, the Committee on Trade and Development (the subsidiary body of the General Council) will regularly review the specific provisions for least developed countries and report to the WTO General Council on appropriate measures. Other provisions include rules on compensation or suspension of concessions in the event of non-implementation. Within a specified period of time, the parties may enter into negotiations to agree on mutually acceptable compensation. In the event of a non-agreement, a party to the dispute may seek authorization from the dispute settlement treaty to suspend concessions or other obligations to the other party concerned. The DSB grants this authorization within 30 days of the end of the agreed implementation period. Differences of opinion on the proposed level of suspension may be referred to arbitration. In principle, concessions should be suspended in the same area as the one at issue in the panel case. If this is not feasible or effective, the suspension may take place in another area of the same agreement. If this is not effective or feasible and the circumstances are serious enough, the suspension of concessions may be made as part of another agreement. The GATS consists of two components: the framework agreement, which contains 29 articles and a series of annexes, ministerial decisions, etc., and the timing of commitments made by each Member State to aggregate the existing degree of openness or to lift existing restrictions (see Box 4).
Although GATS coverage is universal for service sectors, liberalization commitments follow a positive list approach in which each participant lists in their calendar the conditions for market access and domestic treatment of foreign service providers in the sectors and types of procurement for which they have committed. Ninety-five timetables of specific commitments (the European Union has presented a common timetable on behalf of its twelve Member States) contain the results of the negotiations on access to services markets. With regard to the level of market opening to a service activity provided by each commitment, it depends on the existing regulatory regime and whether market access and national treatment have been limited by the importing country. Indeed, most calendars contain links to the existing level of access, while others also have liberalisation obligations. By incurring obligations, foreign service providers – and domestic customers of foreign service providers – are guaranteed that entry and operating conditions will not change to their detriment. In the future, the GATS explicitly provides for successive rounds of negotiations in order to achieve a higher degree of liberalization. The World Trade Organization (WTO) is a unique institutional framework comprising the GATT and all legal agreements and instruments negotiated under the Uruguay Round: the 1994 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and other merchandise trade agreements; General Agreement on Trade in Services or the GATS; Agreement on aspects of intellectual property protection or TRIPS that affect trade; Dispute Settlement Agreement (DSU); and the Trade Policy Review Mechanism (TPRM).