Are all library activities covered in the GATS exclusion for public services?
The GATS does not provide definitions for the key terms in its “governmental authority” exclusion, and there have so far been no trade disputes that offer additional clarification. Commentary on what services might be covered within this exception is therefore speculative. Generally speaking, “commercial” entities are often characterised as being “private” and “for-profit”, although “private, non-profit” entities may sometimes also be seen as “commercial”. “Competition” may be defined intuitively as vying against others for consumer revenue. Most Canadian libraries are public and non-profit, which likely makes them non-commercial entities. Many of the services they provide (i.e. the cost-free lending of books and information) also seem to be non-competitive and thereby exempted from the GATS. However, some of their other activities, particularly those offered on a direct fee-for-service basis (i.e. research services, e-mail accounts, etc.), may be considered competitive. These activiti