Liberalization of trade in services

Efforts are underway at both the international and the European level to liberalize trade in services by means of, for example, standards relating to services. The General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), for instance, sets out requirements for international trade in services and is designed to liberalize the market. Standardization plays an important role in efforts to liberalize cross-border trade in services in Europe and in the removal of barriers to trade. A report (pdf, in German) commissioned by KAN examines how the GATS deals with health and safety and international standards.

Safety for the service consumer or the service provider?

It is inevitable that service standards will make reference to the individuals who perform the services. A possible result of this is that such standards might contain safety requirements relating to the service provider that are actually subject to individual states’ mandate to implement health and safety directives, as stipulated by Article 153 of the TFEU. Furthermore, these types of standards might conflict with the principles outlined in the German Consensus Statement (GDS) (pdf) and with the Policy paper on the role of standardization in the health and safety of workers at work (pdf). This could result in established, proven social security systems (especially those concerning health and safety) colliding with undesired parallel systems – to workers’ detriment. KAN therefore takes the view (pdf) that, whilst service standards should cover service consumers’ safety, they should not include service providers’ safety, which must be dealt with in national rules and regulations.

Standardization of healthcare services

There is also an increase in efforts to standardize services in the healthcare sector, partly with the support of the EU Commission. In this case, it can be difficult to draw a line between the safety of the service provider and that of the consumer. KAN has therefore adopted a Position paper on the standardization of healthcare services (pdf). Specifically, KAN rejects the idea of using standards to regulate healthcare services

  • if they concern requirements relating to healthcare services for employees and insured persons arising from legal requirements, services provided by the social accident insurance institutions and additional services provided by employers on a voluntary basis,
  • if they concern health and safety requirements for the individuals who perform the healthcare services. However, there are exceptional cases where standardization of health and safety matters is possible if it serves to protect the employees who perform the services, the remaining requirements set out in the Policy paper on the role of standardization in the health and safety of workers at work are met and all German health and safety stakeholders approve.

Do you have any questions on this topic, or need support? If so, please contact Katharina Schulte.