The U.S. services sector, including industries such as business and professional services, communications, construction, healthcare, education, and finance, accounts for the preponderance of U.S. economic output. Americans spend twice as much on services as they do on goods and 80 percent of the U.S. workforce is employed in services industries.

Despite the prevalence of non-tariff barriers to services trade – including outright restrictions against foreign firms participating in a slew of domestic service industries – services trade has grown faster than trade in goods over the past 25 years. But much greater effort to overcome a variety of non-tariff barriers – including regulations and standards “behind the border” – is needed to achieve greater levels of specialization and also to enable the economies of scale required to support continued increases in U.S. and global living standards.

Non-tariff barriers affect goods trade, as well as services trade, and the rules disciplining this form of protectionism are less clearly articulated. As the reduction of tariffs and other traditional border barriers induced substantial increases in goods trade following World War II, more attention now must be turned to the task of reducing non-tariff barriers to both goods and services trade.

On this page you will find Cato’s work on trade in services, regulatory protectionism, and other forms of non-tariff barriers to trade.

More on Services Trade and Non-Tariff Barriers


Let’s Be Honest about Trade Agreements and Domestic Regulation

By Simon Lester. Huffington Post. May 3, 2016.

A Cure for the Transatlantic Trade Blues

By Daniel J. Ikenson. May 2, 2016.

Beware — the Europeans Are Coming for Your Cheese

By K. William Watson. New York Post. March 4, 2016.

Cato Studies

Patent Rights and Imported Goods

By Daniel R. Pearson. Policy Analysis No. 780. September 15, 2015.

Cross-Border Acquisitions and Labor Regulations

By Ross Levine, Chen Lin, and Beibei Shen. Research Briefs in Economic Policy No. 33. August 26, 2015.

Expanding Trade in Medical Care through Telemedicine

By Simon Lester. Policy Analysis No. 769. March 24, 2015.


Domestic Tobacco Regulation and International Law:The Interaction of Trade Agreements and the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control

Simon Lester. Journal of World Trade. Vol. 47. No. 1. February 2015.

Financial Services in the TTIP: Making the Prudential Exception Work

Inu Barbee and Simon Lester. Georgetown Journal of International Law. Vol. 45. No. 4. 2014.

The Challenge of Cooperation: Regulatory Trade Barriers in the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership

Simon Lester and Inu Barbee. Journal of International Economic Law. Vol. 16. No. 4. December 2013.

Public Filings

The Pilot Program on NAFTA Long-Haul Trucking Provisions

By Daniel Griswold. Testimony. May 4, 2011.

Cato Reviews & Journals

Combating Regulatory Protectionism

Policy Report. July/August 2013.