Trade in health services

Rupa Chanda
November 2001

The paper provides an overview of the nature of international trade in health services and the lessons that can be learnt from the national, regional, and multilateral experience in this context. The study discusses the various ways in which health services can be traded, the main global players in this trade, and the positive as well as negative implications of this trade for equity, efficiency, quality, and access to health services. It also outlines some of the main barriers constraining trade in health services. While some of these barriers are imposed for reasons for public policy and consumer interest, others are clearly protectionist. The analysis indicates that there has been little progress to date in opening up this sector to trade and foreign direct investment. It emphasises the importance of harmonization of standards, recognition, and insurance portability if health services trade is to be liberalized multilaterally. The study draws broad conclusions about the main issues and concerns which characterize trade in health services and recommends policy measures to ensure that gains from such trade are realized while mitigating its potential adverse consequences.