open access


This paper addresses the impact of WTO- and EC-driven liberalisation of trade in services on non-trade policies. Adopting a human rights perspective, which is given as having a critical bearing on both “trade” and “non-trade” in “trade and …” discussions, it seeks particularly to map an analysis of the merits of (further) subjecting education provision to economic liberalisation. As concerns the WTO, assessment of the GATS´ wording leads to the finding that  education provision seems likely to be construed as within GATS’ scope, and therefore fully subject to its disciplines. In that context, it is submitted that states’ decisions concerning offering (and seeking) commitments in the area of education provision need to be informed by human rights obligations, such as that of provision “free of charge”. In the EC context, distinction is made of the internal and external component of education-as-service discussions. Internally, the Court of Justice has excluded education provision from the legal discipline of the free movement of services, a situation seemingly increasingly at odds with the far-reaching subjection of the provision of similar public goods, such as health care. Yet, due to education’s specific nature in forming individuals and societies, it is argued that there are important reasons to keep excluding (parts of) education provision from the EC services law discipline. Externally, the concern relates in particular to the possibility that developing countries will be requested by the EC to provide EC-based economic operators access to their education ´markets´ at a stage when it is not yet possible to determine whether the EC foreign policy objective of human rights advancement can be guaranteed.