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GATS/International Agreements

Materials about the GATS and Other International Agreements

The ABA Center for Professional Responsibility expresses its gratitude to
Professor Laurel S. Terry, Penn State Dickinson School of Law,
for her invaluable assistance in the creation and support of this webpage.

Although many U.S. lawyers are unaware of the fact, the General Agreement on Trade in Services applies to legal services. By joining the World Trade Organization in 1994, the U.S. agreed to be bound by the GATS. There currently are two "tracks" of activities of which U.S. lawyers should be aware. "Track 1" is the current round of negotiations to further liberalize trade in legal services. These negotiations are required by the GATS. "Track 2" involves the question of whether the WTO will adopt any "disciplines on domestic regulation," pursuant to GATS Article VI:4, that would apply to the regulation of the legal profession.

If you are just encountering the issue of the GATS and legal services, you may want to begin by reading the International Bar Association GATS Handbook. For assistance deciphering the citation system used for WTO documents or learning how to locate these documents, click here.

Negotiations for the U.S. are coordinated by the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative. USTR representatives have indicated that they do not intend to displace state regulation of lawyers and have made efforts to consult with U.S. lawyers concerning these events. To date, however, the USTR has heard from relatively few U.S. lawyers concerning these important issues. This website has been established in order to increase awareness about the GATS and the implications it has for the delivery of legal services. Comments on the website and additional submissions are welcome.