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Are trade agreements attempting to "justify" in an ad-hoc manner a previous involuntary capture of important policy (like - but not limited to national healthcare policy) by manufacturing an illusory "debate" and "consensus", while concealing numerous important material facts, most notably the fact that said policy had already been formally "decided" long before?

We discuss a great many issues here. In particular, our present and future policy space, in areas like health care, banking, higher education, housing, and other services of all kinds, as our ability to do what we need via democracy, is being taken by hidden trade agreements

Virtually unknown trade agreements like GATS,TISA and many others, that were signed long ago, or are currently being negotiated

This quote is from FPIF's "GATS and Women"

"Under GATS, the definition of service is ambiguous. According to GATS Article 1.3(b), only government services that are “supplied neither on a commercial basis nor in competition with one or more service suppliers” may be excluded from GATS coverage. Since most government services involve both competition and commercial provision, they wouldn’t be excluded. In a recent briefing session, the U.S. trade representative (USTR) legal counsel for GATS agreed that on a plain reading, public services such as health care, education, energy, and the provisioning of water would all be included in the GATS purview. However, this interpretation is not universally shared. In the UK, for example, the Department of Trade and Industry has stated that public services are exempt from the above definition. As these vastly different interpretations demonstrate, negotiators are moving forward without a clear understanding of what is covered under GATS.

Specifically, the scope of GATS includes all measures affecting trade in services. A “measure” can refer to virtually any government law, regulation, policy, procedure, or administrative action that may inadvertently or indirectly affect the supply of a service. The definition and range of services is so broad that local content requirements, the hiring of local workers, the hiring of minority or women workers, and community reinvestment programs could all be challenged under GATS as barriers to trade. Some policy specialists have even suggested that government incentives (for example a tax break if you hire local workers) that apply to local and foreign providers could be challenged on the grounds that they discriminate against similar services provided via the Internet."

(end quote)

FTA's cannot reach in and change national laws, however, by mutual agreement, they have the effect of creating property rights in policies, that in practice effectively cancel out the rights of voters at a higher, supranational level. shown by compensation that must be paid by taxpayers to corporations (or other countries) when policies are changed. These costs are designed to become impossibly prohibitive.

They create new entitlements for corporations. They define public services extremely narrowly, and unless we initiate a process to free ourselves from them now, via carve-outs and GATS Article XXI, the larger the value of the service sector, the more likely it will be to be impossibly costly getting our regulatory freedom back. The sanctions are designed to rapidly become too costly, a barrier which is likely intentional.

The situation with the GATS and South Africa's National Health Act,  illustrates the problem. 

Barriers put by the General Agreement on Trade in Services impact US health insurance and financial services regulation, environmental services, and higher education.

"Trade in services" "agreements" have been kept hidden, because they steal democracy and public services not just from us, from the entire world, and all of its people, locking in a corporate stranglehold on our future for a global oligarchy, attempting to frame all important needs as leading to neoliberal wish lists of voter rejected policy.

Start with our articles, both news and commentary, or our external links, which cover a broad range of subjects with the health care policy in the US near the top.

Some keywords which are useful are "explainer", video, and many legal concepts, for example, access-to-medicines, "austerity", right-to-regulatesubsidies, labor standards, women's rights, labor mobility, minimal trade restrictiveness, and many others.

we're working on making it easier to navigate. You can find recently added or modified pages here. There are over 300 links.


The mystery of WTO dispute DS503, Senate bill S386, and others and their possible effects on skilled work globally.

Could this be the Pearl Harbor attack for the world's middle class? Rather than wade into the arguments regarding (US) Senate bill 386 (s386) - a subject I am worried about, I am just going to attempt to lay out as many links to resources that pertain to the relevant WTO case that I am almost certain it has some connection to, as I can find.

Sanya Reid Smith explains TISA - very good explanation.

Nobody seems to grasp just how big and brutal these deals are. For example, they block practically everything progressives want our government to do. Medicare For All is one of them.

The most important issue for a healthy healthcare future: a unitary, tierless system. This should not be disputable.

Lets focus on what is needed. The public cannot be optional. The notion of a "public option" is a problematic one because of how the WTO GATS definitions of "services supplied as an exercise of governmental authority" works.

Focus on Medicare For All - Single Payer - Urgent - Please Read

The Potential Impact of the World Trade Organization's General Agreement on Trade in Services on Health System Reform and Regulation in the United States. (2009)

In this 2009 paper, the late Nicholas Skala explained the "GATS" agreement, its implications for US healthcare reform (its many conflicts with many of the things that were done in the ACA and which are proposed for Medicare For All) and why we urgently need to get carve-outs in the WTO (and the WTO's implications for Social Security and Medicare). He even gave us a sample of a carve-out-Its urgent that we do this, soon. This paper is a must-read for anybody interested in US health care reform and the obstacles to it.

GATS and Public Service Systems

This is a must-read article as its by far the most concise and understandable explanation of the "governmental authority exception" an all important "two-pronged test" or definition, that defines the scope of what is allowed to be a public service and what is not, in the GATS agreement. In other words, what is subject to privatization rules, and what isn't. This definition is also borrowed or imported, in the computer programming sense, "as is" into hundreds of other trade agreements all around the globe. So this essay is extremely useful in understanding which healthcare or higher education proposals could work (and which ones would be subjected to a death of a thousand cuts, and couldn't) for example. The essay was originally written and published by the government of British Columbia province in Canada.

Putting Health First - Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives

Canadian Health Care Reform, Trade Treaties and Foreign Policy - this essay describes the traps in the GATS agreement for Canadian health care, it also discusses 'carve outs' and why they are needed by Canada to protect their Medicare (public health care) from Trade Agreements that try to destroy, and privatize them. This death of a thousand cuts is caused by GATS, that is what's been done to the UK's NHS.

GATS and Financial Services Deregulation by Patricia Arnold

Medicare, Social Security and other governmentally subsidized financial services are put in grave danger by the GATS - This paper by a noted professor in accounting who has written a great deal of highly readable material on the WTO and its interaction with financial regulation is a short and concise intro to many of the major issues, particularly the threats GATS poses to Social Security and Medicare if those areas are allowed to compete with commercial banks or insurers. Caution is needed because millions could see huge changes in their only retirement benefits just as they were needed the most if Social Security and/or Medicare lose their protection from GATS rules, which is likely if current proposals are implemented,- see the Annex on Financial Services.

How the World Trade Organisation is shaping domestic policies in health care

"The previous round of WTO ministerial talks (the Uruguayan round) allowed governments to protect health and social services from GATS treatment by defining them as government services. According to GATS Article 1.3, a government service is one “which is supplied neither on a commercial basis, nor in competition with one or more service suppliers”. Article 19 of GATS is, however, intended to end this protection. “Members shall enter into successive rounds of negotiations . . . with a view to achieving a progressively higher level of liberalisation.” The WTO secretariat has argued that for services to be classified under Article 1.3 they should be provided free. Many governments initially protected health services from GATS treatment by defining them in this way. But the WTO has highlighted the inconsistencies in this approach. 12 “The hospital sector in many counties . . . is made up of government-owned and privately-owned entities which both operate on a commercial basis, charging the patient or his insurance for the treatment provided. Supplementary subsidies may be granted for social, regional, and similar policy purposes. It seems unrealistic in such cases to argue for continued application of Article I:3, and/or maintain that no competitive relationship exists between the two groups of suppliers of services.” In addition, Article 13 of GATS calls for the end of subsidies that distort trade and requires members to negotiate procedures to combat them. Therefore, according to the WTO, wherever there is a mixture of public and private funding, such as user charge or private insurance, or there are subsidies for non-public infrastructure, such as public-private partnerships or competitive contracting for services, the service sector should be open to foreign corporations. Health-care systems across Europe are vulnerable on all these counts."