International trade in services, an essential adjunct to commerce in raw materials and manufactured goods, has become an increasingly important factor in world trade. Although services have been included in postwar trade liberalization from the outset, there has been a notable absence of international action to reduce services trade barriers and many restrictions remain. These trade barriers include: refusal or delay in responding to an application for a licence or operating permit; terms under which foreign companies must operate (often there is differential treatment of foreign and national firms); special taxes; recruitment requirements; and outright prohibitions, such as in travel employment.
The services industry includes banking, construction, accounting, insurance, motion pictures, travel and tourism, shipping, telecommunications and numerous other sectors. Trade in services accounted for 20% of world trade, more than US$ 350,000 million in 1983.