When GATS was agreed to at the end of the Uruguay Round, a number of negotiations were left unfinished. These included negotiations on maritime transport, financial services, telecommunications and movement of personnel. Negotiations on telecommunications and financial services—including banking, securities and insurance—were concluded in 1997.
The 1997 Financial Services Agreement (FSA) became an Annex to the GATS agreement. It included a framework for international trade in financial services including the removal of rules and barriers to foreign banks, insurance companies and investment companies operating on equal terms with local companies.
Over 100 nations signed up to it, with varying individual commitments to the extent they would do this. Many countries committed to allowing foreign firms to establish wholly owned asset management subsidiaries in their countries. Fewer agreed to open up cross-border access to foreign firms, where the services are provided from abroad.
To achieve the GATS and the FSA multinational corporations trading in services formed coalitions of high level business leaders, with ready access to key government bureaucrats, to increase their power and influence over the agenda and direction of trade negotiations. These corporations hope to ‘broaden and deepen the commitments made in GATS’ so that eventually every WTO member will open every service sector to foreign companies without restriction.