Trade in services is a relatively recent phenomenon (compared to merchandise trade) and covers 160 sectors such as finance, education and health. In an interview with the Times, Hands said the NHS would be protected in any future trade agreement with the United States. Finally, if the NHS is not a fully public service and is therefore automatically outside the provisions of a trade agreement, it must be expressly excluded to protect it. It is not easy at all. The NHS, for example, is closely linked to other sectors such as public health, social care, new technologies and drugs – to exclude it completely, this means that these other concerns are also excluded from others. International Trade Minister Greg Hands has promised the NHS before the U.S. to try to force the service to pay more for prescription drugs. While the UK government is focusing on post-Brexit trade deals, the NHS is more vulnerable than ever to inclusion in trade agreements and it has never been clear what the future holds. Public services are generally considered to be protected from trade agreements. For example, the World Trade Organization`s General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) requires that public services be protected from the terms of free trade agreements, provided they are not provided on a commercial or competitive basis. The impact of future trade agreements on the NHS, particularly the consequences of a trade agreement with the United States, has been at the heart of the public debate. It is particularly concerned that trade conditions agreed with other countries restrict the ability of government and decentralized administrations to publicly organize and fund their health services or to change the way the public has access to NHS services. „We have always made it clear that the NHS is protected in all trade agreements.“ The British government says the NHS and the price it pays for the drug will not be on the table for trade negotiations with the United States.
I am concerned, however, that the government`s pressing desire to reach an agreement will lead to an agreement designed to benefit the large groups behind the American health care industry. According to Public Services International (a global trade union confederation), there is a tension between public services and trade in services agreements. Public services strive to meet basic social needs on a public utility basis. On the other hand, trade agreements operate on the basis that public services are goods.