Medical and Social Alternative

Existing frameworks for how trade is facilitated between countries in this sector

The arrangements described in this section are examples of existing arrangements between countries. They should not be taken to represent the options being considered by the Government for the future economic relationship between the UK and the EU. The Government has been clear that it is seeking pragmatic and innovative solutions to issues related to the future deep and special partnership that we want with the EU.

As noted above medical services are sparsely traded and consequently it is the general provisions on services trade that provide the framework for trade in these services outside of the EU.

There are a number of existing arrangements that govern the way in which other countries trade with each other in this sector.

The baseline for trade in services is the WTO’s General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). All WTO Members are parties to GATS which sets out general rules, principles and obligations as a framework for trade in services; plus a schedule of commitments which set out how open and non-discriminatory parties commit to be across the service sectors covered.18 GATS also sets out ‘how’ parties will allow services to be traded and this is split into four principal ‘modes’:

  • where a product rather than a service supplier/consumer crosses a border (e.g. an architect sending architectural drawings to a client overseas);
  • where the consumer of the service crosses a border (e.g. tourism);
  • where the company crosses a border (e.g. a retail chain opening a new establishment in another country); and
  • where the service provider moves (e.g. a lawyer spends nine months working in her firm’s office in another country). Commitments taken by parties vary and parties can unilaterally choose to improve their GATS offers at any point (subject to a certification procedure) or lower the level of their commitments, but in order to do so they will be expected to offer compensatory concessions.